Our specialist teams have been supporting trade union members and their families who have had an accident or have suffered injustice at work for almost a century.

Not only do our solicitors work closely with union members to make a claim, they also support the trade union movement in fighting to improve workers’ rights and campaign for justice and equality outside of work too.

As part of our Standing with Unions campaign, Harriet Mearns-Thomas, a litigation executive from Thompsons Solicitors’ Cardiff office, gives us an insight into how she supports union members and reminds us of the value and significance that trade unions have had and continue to have today.

“Waking up on a Monday morning after a week off work, you don’t automatically think of saying a little thank you for the tireless campaigns that the unions fought in the last century to guarantee workers a right to paid annual leave. But, if I was a little more awake when my alarm went off at 4.45am this morning, I should have done so because without them I wouldn’t have had paid time off or for that matter weekends either. Of course, time off doesn’t mean your work stops and when I got into the office and saw the work that had mounted up while I was on annual leave, I was a little doubtful about how much I could get done before heading to my first union event later that week.

“After a couple of busy hours in the office, I arrived in Newport at 8am to see a friendly union colleague waiting in the car park to drive us to our first destination – Nevil Hall Hospital in South Wales.

“Over the last seven years or so, I have done a great deal of work for the UNISON Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board branch. I have been lucky to be able to build great relationships with the stewards and the branch secretary who all work above and beyond their hours to help staff and union members. It may be a cliché, but I never get bored of meeting new faces and listening to them talk with such humility about the support they have given to members who have faced struggles in work which has clearly made a real difference to those people’s lives. On this visit I also got a chance to catch up with union members about the branch’s free trip to the seaside during the summer which included transport and tickets for friends and family, it sounded like a great day out and they were already planning the next event in early December.

“I meet hospital staff on my visit and speak to them about the legal areas we specialise in and work with UNISON to offer not only to them but in many cases to their families too – things like free employment rights representation, a wills service and free advice on personal injury claims in and out of work with no deductions from damages at the end of a case – and I leave having helped recruit some new members.

“As I head back to the office, I start planning the next few days and thinking about upcoming events. Over the next week, I will be working with UNISON again to hold an event at the Royal Gwent Hospital as well as joining a talk at a ‘prosecco and pizza’ evening Unite is holding on the mental health crisis affecting workers who are under so much pressure in their daily working lives. I start thinking about October and the evening ward walks I will be doing across the hospitals with my UNISON comrades, the talks I will be delivering for other branches (including UNISON, PCS and the RMT) and the weekend union conferences I will be attending. And this is when I finally think to thank those who all those years ago stood shoulder to shoulder against all the odds to make sure that we do have 28 days of paid annual leave each year (far higher than our fellow workers in the USA and many others across the world).”

For more information on how Thompsons Solicitors is supporting trade unions, visit our Standing with Unions campaign page.