Matt Wardman writes:
(A slight apology to usual readers for the weekend bulge in SPCK articles; a lot has happened in the last few days.)
This is an account from someone who reached an out of court settlement before a previous Employment Tribunal.
There will be a case hearing on the 18th September to determine procedure for the 31 Employment Tribunals which are being pursued against the Society of Saint Stephen the Great (SSG) by USDAW, the Shopworkers’ Union.
We have heard that some people are being contacted with offers of Out of Court Settlements. Now, clearly it is a matter for each individual to make their own decision, and I don’t want to try and change that in any way. This account is from someone who pursued a claim against SSG. I hope it is useful.
“As one who has played this game and danced this waltz with the Brewers I can say that:
- They will make the payment in advance of the Tribunal if people agree to it.
- It is the only guaranteed way of getting something out of him, as Employment Tribunal payments can be notoriously difficult to get even if awarded: there is no mechanism to make them pay up – just taking them to court again!
- In the end I was advised that though at Tribunal I was likely to get more they weren’t sure when I would get it given their (then not as bad!) history of default, but that the choice was mine.
- I decided to take what was on the table which was what was owed me (we had a settlement agreement they had defaulted on!) and all I had originally wanted, after all at that time I thought that it hurt them more to cough up than not.
They will try for a non-Disclosure or Confidentiality Agreement. In my case I refused to entertain it unless he (J Mark Brewer) – would increase the settlement, as I did not consider what he was paying me entitled him to apply a gag as well; the amount was only that I was entitled to in my settlement package.
I had cited that I had lost all faith in the Brewers, and there was an element reported in my grievance of harassment, and a claim of physical intimidation by Philip Brewer, so it was a bit tricky for them to push for a Confidentiality Agreement.
He played the “Christian” card, but I stated categorically that I refused to be gagged in case I was needed to be a witness or provide supporting evidence for any one else who might find themselves in the same or similar situations.
The only thing I did agree to was to release all claims against Philip Brewer and the Society of Saint Stephen the Great arising from my time of employment with them, but I made them put in the same wording in regards to me! He quibbled initially, but then caved in.
So – yes – you can argue the toss and come out ahead – but it does take time to do that. To be honest you have to be willing to really play chicken with the them as he will push it and if you give in he’s got you!
At the end of the day you have to make the decision you think is best for you with the hope it won’t effect others down the line!”
Mr Brewer is phoning around starting to offer people Out of Court settlements before the Employment Tribunal later this week.
Unnecessary confidentiality agreements can be used to keep you quiet in future when you probably don’t absolutely need to sign them for the best outcome now. The tactics used by SSG to control SPCK in this case have been classic “Divide and Rule”. Such tactics mean that people cannot draw strength from each other in the face of personal intimidation. An example is the insistence that email can only be used for “vertical” email communication with the bosses, not for “horizontal” communication with colleagues.
In my opinion, over aggressive Confidentiality Agreements fit the same mould.
Again, these are just my opinions – whether they are given any weight is for individuals to decide.