A PCS member of almost four decades, who was treated as the “enemy within” by his employer, has succeeded at tribunal with the help of his union and Thompsons Solicitors.

Paul Williams, a member of the PCS national executive committee and long-standing civil servant, took the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to an employment tribunal, who found he had fallen victim of “anti-union animus”.

The issues began in 2019 when the DVSA began restructuring. Rather than take voluntary redundancy, Mr Williams applied for 28 alternative positions – all of which were unsuccessful – something the tribunal itself found was “surprising” considering there was nothing to suggest he was “pursuing inappropriate alternative roles or was incompetent”.

He eventually secured a temporary role in the finance team. However in October 2019 he was told it could only be made permanent if he agreed to reduce his facility time from 50 per cent to 20 per cent. A month later, the DVSA wrote to Mr Williams and told him it would be withdrawing the use of its facilities from PCS representatives with immediate effect. The tribunal found that this “demonstrated anti-union animus and in particular towards Mr Williams”.

In early 2020, Mr Williams was invited to an interview for a role in the HR department. At no point was he told that his trade union activities would clash with this role. However, prior to the interview, the head of HR emailed Mr Williams and told him that if he wanted the job, he would have to give up his trade union role.

The tribunal was particularly scathing of this, citing a “woeful failure” of procedure by an employer that wanted to limit the union activities of one of its staff unfairly.   

Rakesh Patel of Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Mr Williams in his case, said: “Paul has dedicated his 38-year career to the civil service and what he has received in return has been a campaign by his employers to victimise him, subjecting him to job insecurity because of his union activities.

“For the Head of the Human Resources department to behave as they did, treating a long-standing trade union activist as, in the words of the ET, “the enemy within”, is more fitting for a Victorian factory than a workplace in the 21st century.

“There were multiple examples of career advancement and job security being disrupted and blocked, when Paul was simply effectively representing his members, which goes beyond hostility and is a clear intention to destabilise and remove the union from the workplace.

“Thompsons has, in 2021, been standing with the trade union movement for 100 years, exposing employers like the DVSA. I am proud that, as we have throughout our history, we were able to take Paul’s case and win.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the case demonstrated some of the most appalling anti-trade union practices he’d seen and thanked Mr Williams for his dedication to the trade union movement.

He said: “DVSA's treatment of Paul Williams - a long standing trade unionist with an excellent record- was an absolute disgrace and effectively an attack on every one of our members in the department. 

“I am very glad the Employment Tribunal saw the reality of what the employer was trying to do, which was to discriminate against someone who has decades of proud service to the trade union movement.

“Trade unions exist in order to defend workers from unscrupulous employers, and it is imperative that every worker joins their appropriate union, whatever part of the workforce they are in."