Our head of trade union law, Richard Arthur, is profiled in the legal feature for his work on the landmark Kostal case
Our head of trade union law, Richard Arthur, has today [4 November 2021] featured in the Times’ Lawyer of the Week.
Read his interview in full below.
Richard Arthur, Bristol-based head of the trade union law group at Thompsons Solicitors, led the team acting for 57 Unite members, who were offered inducements, including a bonus and pay rise, by their employer, auto parts manufacturer Kostal UK, to by-pass negotiations with the union. In its first judgment on trade union collective bargaining rights, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the 57, and reinstated the original employment tribunal award of £421,800.
What were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome in this case?
Persuading judges how a European Convention-compliant set of trade union rights is effective in a UK labour law setting that is hostile to trade unions. Union bargaining is protected under the European Convention, something we established in a 2002 case.
The award represented the statutory sum of £3,800 in 2017, increased to £4,341, for each individual offer made.
What is the best decision you have taken as a lawyer?
Becoming a trade union lawyer. My values always were to the left. I walked out of magic circle firm, Freshfields, on a Friday night to start in-house at what is now the union UNISON on the Monday.
Who do you most admire in the law?
My colleagues who, despite hugely anti-claimant personal injury reforms, continue to win cases every day for working people injured through no fault of their own.
What is the best advice you have received?
Always listen and reflect on what your clients tell you. Often the solution presents itself from the facts.
What is the funniest thing that has happened in your job?
Putting our team's social options at the end of a fax to the other side, who replied formally before adding: ‘PS Naina’s curry night sounds great!’
What are the best and worst elements of being a lawyer?
Best: winning trade union rights cases – industrial actions, blacklisting or this type of case.
Worst: fretting about whether you have thought of every possible angle.
What law would you enact?
Repealing the Trade Union Act 2016 and replacing it with a law to promote trade union rights. Social justice is best delivered through trade unions.
What is your favourite book, film, pop song, cocktail?
Negroni: a little bitter, a little sweet...