Disabled activist victim of union discrimination

By Jon Slattery

An employment tribunal has upheld complaints by a disabled NUJ activist that the union discriminated against her.

Freelance journalist Ju Gosling claimed the union breached the law during its 2000 annual conference in Ennis, Ireland.

She said she was the only wheelchair user at the conference and was taken seriously ill on the second day after the union failed to implement agreed access

Gosling: said she suffered damage to nervous system

arrangements. She told the tribunal she suffered permanent damage to her central nervous system as a result.

This is the first case to be heard under the section of the Disability Discrimination Act that deals with the benefits of trade union membership.

The Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that the NUJ had failed to meet Gosling’s dietary requirements and failed to provide the support promised during the conference. They also found the NUJ had failed to take adequate care of Gosling’s wheelchair after agreeing to transport it. It was then badly damaged.

The tribunal will meet later in the year to decide compensation.

Gosling told Press Gazette: “If this had happened in other circumstances, I would have expected the NUJ to represent me and they would have been looking for financial compensation. An apology from the union would be nice.

“Obviously, I am pleased with the result, but as a long-time NUJ activist, I feel sad that I was forced to take my complaint to the tribunal. We look to our unions to protect our rights, not to deny them.” Gosling said she took the case to a tribunal after the NUJ failed to respond to her use of the internal complaints procedure and refused the conciliation opportunities offered by the Disability Rights Commission and Acas.

NUJ spokesman Tim Gopsill said the union was surprised by the judgment, but he added: “In the light of the substantial number of complaints that were made by Juliet Gosling, the union is pleased that the overwhelming majority were rejected.

“For the NUJ staff who were involved in helping her, the judgment is particularly disappointing. They have been through a hard time, not only giving evidence but facing accusations that they were unhelpful and obstructive.” The union is still considering whether to appeal.

Jon Slattery

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