By David Shrimpton
A London restaurant worker who alleged he was sacked unfairly for trying to organise a union has had his claim thrown out by an industrial tribunal.
Andrew Young was employed as a breakfast person at The Place Below, sited in the crypt of St Mary Le Bow church. The 80-seat restaurant is owned by Bill Sewell, who also runs Caterer's former Adopted Business, the Café at All Saints in Hereford.
Young, who earned £11,400 a year, was employed full-time at the restaurant from March 1996. In January 1997 he joined the TGWU and then recruited other staff. That autumn, Young led an unsuccessful bid for better pay and more holidays.
When, in November, the restaurant tried to change its terms for casual workers, Young again led the protests. This was followed by an incident when Young took restaurant manager Ian Burleigh around the kitchen to point out alleged health and safety risks. Burleigh claimed he was hustled and intimidated.
Then, on 11 December, Burleigh saw a row between Young and the head chef. He was afraid that a fight was about to take place, the tribunal heard. Young was handed a letter of dismissal the next day.
The restaurant owners claimed they were unaware of Young's union membership until 5 December and did not know he had recruited others. They said Young's work had deteriorated seriously after the November dispute, that there were "confrontational incidents" almost every day, and that the sacking was based solely on Young's misconduct.
The tribunal concluded that Young had become "somewhat uncooperative and belligerent" after the dispute over casual staff and that Burleigh had been shown round the kitchen in an "aggressive fashion".
Although the head chef had been "somewhat aggressive", it added, "Young did not back away from the confrontation" and Burleigh genuinely thought violence was imminent.
The tribunal ruled that Young's trade union activities were not the reason, or principal reason, for his dismissal. It concluded that he was sacked because "his conduct was causing an unpleasant atmosphere in the restaurant for staff and customers".