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Tribunal bias

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City & County of Swansea v Honey is a rare example of the EAT assenting to a bias appeal. The judgment contains comments of some importance to the probity of wing members sitting on cases involving employers in the same area of industry as the member.

The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Honey, a senior legal executive with Swansea Council, had been automatically unfairly dismissed and awarded him the statutory maximum compensation. After judgment but before the remedies hearing, the employer discovered that the Union wing member was a District Secretary of the RMT and had been involved in the representation of taxi drivers in a campaign against the local authority employer to restrict numbers of taxi licences and held a "thoroughly negative" view of the local authority as an organisation. This did not relate to the parties involved in the Employment Tribunal hearing who were unknown to him.

The employer argued apparent bias. The EAT was strongly critical of the failure of both the Employment Judge and the member to recognise that this was a plain case of apparent bias, both before trial and at a subsequent review application.

The EAT commented (in particular at paragraph 35) that if a wing member has had any contentious dealings with an employer or has articulated criticism of an employer, this must be declared to the parties and will probably satisfy the test of apparent bias, even where, as in the immediate case, the individuals involved in the Employment Tribunal claim were unknown to the member.