After a year of hearings, an employment tribunal has found what we have known to be true from the start - that IWGB member Ruth Hannan was unfairly fired from the Royal Society of Arts for participating in trade union activity.
Ruth was dismissed from her role as Head of Policy and Participation on 10 October 2022 after speaking out about the hypocrisy of Andy Haldane’s management of the RSA in the press.
Ruth’s comments came in the context of an ongoing fight for trade union recognition of the IWGB, something that has since been achieved through a statutory vote, but was denied by Andy Haldane and senior management three times preceding that, despite a majority of the proposed bargaining unit being members of the union.
Having been represented by Adam Ohringer of cloisters chambers throughout the tribunal process, a judge ruled that Ruth had not been malicious or unreasonable in her comments, and therefore she had been dismissed for taking part in trade union activities in breach of Section 152 of TULRCA 1992.
This ruling is an important reassurance, not just for staff at the RSA but trade union members in other workplaces that currently do not have recognised unions, that they are protected by the law and are able to speak freely and publicly in their capacity as trade union members.
We express full solidarity with Ruth, who has bravely endured the lengthy employment tribunal process to make sure that the RSA’s law-breaking actions were put on the record, and in the hope that her colleagues would not have to face the same kind of victimisation that she did.
It has become clear that the RSA under Andy Haldane’s leadership does not resemble the historic, progressive organisation that both staff and fellows hold in such high esteem.
Ruth’s legal victory has only strengthened our members' resolve to win the ongoing pay dispute, and has increased their confidence and energy to transform the RSA into an organisation that respects and values their work.
Recently, the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that much-respected former colleague Ruth Hannan, then Head of Policy and Participation, was fired unfairly as a result of her trade union activity.
During the union’s hard-fought battle for recognition, Ruth spoke out about our campaign to the press, leading to an article in the Observer in October last year that highlighted the hypocrisy of the RSA in its attitude towards its staff unionising.
Firstly, we would like to be clear that Ruth spoke on behalf of all of us, and we are grateful to her for bravely speaking out when so many of us feared retribution.
We were all horrified when on the day following the publication of the article, Ruth was instructed that her employment had been terminated due to her comments in the article.
Since then, Ruth has endured a stressful and lengthy legal battle to argue that this constituted unfair dismissal due to trade union activity in an attempt to hold the RSA leadership to account and ensure their law breaking actions were put on the record.
The tribunal ruled that Ruth’s comments made in the Observer were neither malicious nor untrue, and that her actions therefore should have been legally protected. It was ruled that Ruth was dismissed for taking part in trade union activities in breach of Section 152 of TULRCA 1992.
While this is a victory for Ruth, the RSA Union and union members everywhere, it is also a reminder of the unethical and at times illegal tactics used by senior management to repress its legitimately unionised staff members.
Ruth’s victory has strengthened our resolve to continue pushing not only for fair pay, but to also restore the RSA as a good and safe place to work, something it has not been for staff over the last year under Andy Haldane’s leadership.
The way Ruth was treated is part of a pattern of ongoing anti-union behaviour by Andy Haldane and senior management, and we are disappointed that it has tarnished the historic reputation of the RSA. We hope that this verdict at the tribunal serves as a sharp wake up call to change their ways and that this behaviour is not repeated again.