Arthur Scargill wins £13,000 union damages
Tuesday 21 February 2012
Former miners' leader Arthur Scargill has been awarded £13,000 in damages after he sued a trust fund of the union he led for 20 years.
Mr Scargill, 74, sued the National Union of Mineworkers Yorkshire Area Trust Fund (YATF) over a range of expenses he claimed he was owed when he worked for them in a £26,000-a-year role after he retired as NUM national president.
Today, a judge at Sheffield County Court rejected the former union boss's claim that he should have had his telephone costs reimbursed by the trust.
But Judge Robert Moore ruled that Mr Scargill was entitled to a car allowance substantially more than the £50 the trustees eventually offered him.
He awarded him £12,000 in damages. The judge also awarded Mr Scargill a further £1,000 in damages because he was denied membership of the NUM for 10 months during the dispute.
Judge Moore told the court that when the trustees began to question Mr Scargill's contract, "there was a clear agenda both to disown him and to pay him as little as possible".
Mr Scargill's barrister Timothy Pitt-Payne QC said the trust treated his client "in a thoroughly shabby way and in a way that was quite inappropriate, given his long and distinguished career within the union".
The court heard that Mr Scargill took up a role with the trust after he retired from his £70,000 post as national president of the NUM in 2002.
Despite two trustees of the fund claiming they did not realise he worked for them, Judge Moore said in his judgment that Mr Scargill's work over the last decade was "meaningful and considerable".
The judge outlined how the former president's expertise was used in relation to the preparation of a range of legal cases.
He said these included an aborted attempt to reclaim £8 million from the union's former solicitors, a long-running property dispute relating to union offices in central Sheffield, and former miners' compensation claims regarding the condition vibration white finger.
The trustees disputed Mr Scargill's claim that he was entitled to an allowance towards a new car.
The court heard that he understood this was a benefit which carried over after he changed jobs in 2002 and was calculated using a complex formula but amounted to 80% of the cost of a Ford Mondeo over a four-year period.
This amounted to about £14,500.
The judge was told that Mr Scargill was paid this allowance in 2005 when he last changed his car.
But five years later, when he inquired again, the trustees began to question the very basis of his employment contract with YATF.
Mr Scargill, wearing a dark suit with a red tie, sat behind his QC in court.
The case continues this afternoon when the judge will resume his assessment of costs.
Speaking outside court, Mr Scargill said: "I'm very pleased that justice has been done.
"I've demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the action taken against me to declare my contract was not valid, my membership of the NUM was not valid and my allowances were not valid has been dispensed with by the court."
He said: "I'm very pleased with the result.
"I feel it's a sad day that the leadership of the NUM in the Yorkshire area have taken what can only be described as a vindictive action against me after 58 years membership of this union."
Mr Scargill said: "This was about principle, fundamental and at the heart of trade unionism."
He said the contract he was given when he became national president included provisions for what would happened when he retired from the post.
He said: "Every single president, every single national secretary of the NUM prior to me has always had those rights.
"It seems that they, the present leadership of the union, want to be vindictive and make me the only culprit."
Asked whether "bad blood" between him and the current national secretary of the NUM, Chris Kitchen, was behind the legal action, Mr Scargill said: "I think it's at the heart of this."
He added: "All I was doing was trying to enforce a contract of employment freely signed in 2002 and for some unknown reason declared by the trustees invalid in 2010."
He said: "Those people who instituted these proceedings by declaring I was not entitled to my contract have a lot to answer for and they've got to answer to the membership of the union.
"They will cost the union money. Not me."
Earlier, Judge Moore awarded Mr Scargill costs but the full amount was not disclosed to the court.
He heard how the YATF had assets of £11.7 million at the end of 2009.
Outside court, Mr Kitchen said the action had so far cost the fund around £50,000.
But, he said, the union was determined to continue with further action against its former national president later this year.
Mr Kitchen said: "I think the judge has believed every word Arthur has told him."
He said: "I honestly do believe that Arthur, in his own world, believes that the NUM is here to afford him the lifestyle that he's become accustomed to.
"Personally, I don't think that's the reason for the existence of the NUM."
He said: "Mr Scargill ought to look at what people think about him and talk to people as opposed to just believing what people around him keep telling him. That's maybe been his problem in the past."
Mr Kitchen said the trustees would now consider whether to appeal. But he said: "Arthur enjoys the limelight and why should the NUM continue to spend money to give him that?"
He said all the parties were due in the High Court in October regarding a dispute over rent payments on Mr Scargill's flat in the Barbican, in London.
Later, the judge ordered that Mr Scargill be awarded a further £480 in interest on the damages relating to the car allowance. This took Mr Scargill's total award to £13,480 plus undisclosed costs.
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