Judge rules NASUWT can sack whistleblowing employee

Employee sacked by teaching union after accusing general secretary Chris Keates of 'wasting police time' - was reinstated by a tribunal but is now likely to lose job again following judge's decision

richard harris case

The NASUWT teaching union has succeeded in overturning a tribunal's decision to reinstate an employee who it had sacked. .

Regional organiser Richard Harris was originally sacked last October following an 11-month suspension and investigation into "potential matters of gross misconduct".

But he was reinstated in January this year after a judge found “it was likely” he had been sacked for whistleblowing and for his trade union activity with the GMB, court documents show.

However this morning at an employment appeal tribunal at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Honourable Mr Justice Soole overturned that decision, and ruled that the NASUWT should be allowed to sack Mr Harris.

Quick Read: Did Keates 'overstay' at NASUWT? asks official probe

Watch: Chris Keates on the 'callous' cuts harming pupils' mental health

Exclusive: Restorative behaviour policies 'leading to teacher-blaming'

The court heard information from the previous tribunal hearing that Mr Harris’ had been dismissed after sending an email to colleagues accusing general secretary Chris Keates of wasting police time by reporting him for drink driving on the day after the offence was allegedly committed when there was no possibility of any action being taken.

However the judge at the first tribunal, Judge Paul Housego stated this was in the public interest.

 In documents outlining his decision Judge Housego states: “The general secretary of the NASUWT is the leader for a union with several hundred thousand members and those members are teachers, each of whom will teach 20 or 30 children each, all of whom have families. If the general secretary were to be wasting police time, that is by its very description a matter of public interest.”

However Mr Justice Soole today argued that it wasn’t tenable that the disclosure was in the public interest  and agreed with NASUWT barristers that there was “no basis for taking it beyond a private disagreement." He also backed the union's barristers that the “size of [union] membership could not take matters into the sphere of public interest.”

Following the hearing, Mr Harris, 66, a former teacher and teacher trainer, said he would seek advice about an appeal and how much it would cost.

He said: "I'm very disappointed that the NASUWT argued that they have no wider public responsibility as a trade union on the way they treat their own staff because they have relentlessly argued that they are a private employer and that what they do internally is of no public interest. 

"If teachers were treated in the same as the union treats its own employees, teachers would be in serious trouble."

Mr Justice Soole’s full decision will be published in due course. The NASUWT has been contacted for comment.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

Latest stories