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The Weaver v NATFHE racial discrimination case resulted from the union’s refusal to provide advice and assistance to a Black Muslim woman when she brought a complaint of workplace racist harassment against a co-trade unionist.

The case was brought under the 1976 Race Relations Act, one of whose provisions is not to discriminate on the grounds of race in the provision of benefits, facilities and services.

Harvey's Industrial Relations and Employment Law - the authoritative source for all legal matters relating to race and sex discrimination summarises the Industrial Tribunal decision as the

"union justified in not assisting applicant's discrimination claim since it would have jeopardised the job of a fellow member."(Harvey Q 90 (Q 213)

The Industrial Tribunal’s judgement allowed NATFHE to rely on the justification defence, which was that it (the union)

"has a legitimate duty to protect the tenure of its members, to avoid conflicts in its representation of members and to avoid breaches of obligations to members whose tenure is at risk which outweighs the limited discriminatory effect of the condition imposed."

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, chaired by Justice Popplewell, upheld the Industrial Tribunal decision, as did Lord Justice May in an application for the case to be heard before the Court of Appeal.

The original judgement, made in 1987, is still the precedent for cases of this kind, namely, that union members who make complaints to the employer of racist or sexist harassment against member(s) of the same union cannot obtain union advice or assistance and this applies irrespective of the merit of the complaint. The evidence that allowed the union to rely on the justification defence, which was accepted by the Tribunal was presented to the tribunal by a senior NATFHE official who stated that:
if a complaint is based on race against a worker, the trade union would not offer the facility of assistance; and that was a rule across the board.

This policy of not providing assistance to complainants of racist or sexist harassment, inscribed in law, illustrated the ineffectiveness of trades unions’ policies on racism and sexism. In the event of the union offering assistance to the complainant it would be in violation of the union’s duty to protect the tenure of the accused member.

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