A sea change in attitudes to Britain’s stable staff from their employers has been cited as one of the benefits of a remarkable record of success for the National Association of Stable Staff in winning employment tribunals.
In a spectacular run, the trade union (Nass) representing stable staff employed by licensed racehorse trainers has not lost out in the tribunal battle ground in more than five years, securing around £700,000 for staff.
In one incident, a Nass member was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries and detained in hospital for three weeks, having been trampled by a loose horse.
Expert medical reports were taken, leading to the defendant offering £12,000 in full and final settlement. Nass took on the case, rejected the claim and ultimately secured the injured worker £120,000.
An increasing number of disputes are also being settled in advance with the assistance of Morrish Solicitors, a Leeds-based firm that represents Nass in matters such as unfair dismissal and personal injury. It is a success story that not only
reflects favourably on Morrish Solicitors and Nass, but is also symptomatic of how attitudes, particularly those among the younger breed of trainer, are becoming more focused towards stable staff welfare.
David Sorensen, a partner at Morrish Solicitors, says: “It’s fair to say that under [chief executive] Jim Cornelius’s tenure Nass has had a much more successful profile within the racing industry as a whole.”
“That’s down to the team at Nass getting themselves organised and reaching out to the members of the organisation. Membership of Nass has increased significantly, as has its position and profile in the workplace.”
“Nass is now a very effective union representing members in different racing yards on a local, regional and national level. Members are getting an excellent level of service and proper representation.”
The association is committed to improving the pay, conditions of service and overall employment position of stable staff. It has sought to become involved when disputes arise in the workplace and endeavours to resolve them by holding a meeting with the trainer. However, in instances when that does not prove
possible, it has called in legal expertise, with stunning results.
“We’ve never lost an employment tribunal case for Nass,” says Sorensen. “We’ve either won the case or it has been settled before getting to thehearing stage. Nowadays more and more disputes are being resolved in the workplace. It shows that Nass is effective at resolving cases to its members’ satisfaction.”
The risk of accident and injury in racing yards is evidently much greater than in many other places of work. Sorensen says: “Morrish is familiar with all types of workplace – shipyards, offices and racing yards are just three examples. “Racing yards are very dangerous places to work in comparison with other workplaces. Personal injury cases are common and they tend to be high-value cases owing to the scale and extent of the injury.”
“If someone in a racing yard gets injured it tends to be serious. We’re talking broken bones, head injuries, partial paralysis – those sort of things do happen. Workers can be off sick for a significant period, and ultimately Nass changing
attitudes and winning cases for its members not be able to go back to work at the
yard. A significant amount can be awarded in such cases. We’ve had recent instances of £120,000 and £60,000 sums being paid out.”
Sorensen has also handled cases involving unfair dismissal, discrimination on grounds of maternity and disputes arising from when a racing yard is transferred to
another employer. Other examples include a girl who was verbally abused by a trainer and instantly dismissed when she protested – the trainer was obliged to
pay compensation – and a stable lad injured after not being told that a horse he was put up on was known to be troublesome.
George McGrath, the newly elected Nass chief executive, having ousted Cornelius, agrees there is now a more user-friendly approach towards staff by trainers, particularly the younger Richard Birch highlights the significant achievements of the
body representing stable staff element. He says: “Racing is still very, very traditional with traditional employment schemes, but it is beginning to move with the times now, especially as a wave of younger trainers such as Hugo Palmer and
Alan McCabe become more established.
“The face of everything in 2012 is changed from what it was ten years ago. “Nowadays, with better employment law and better representation, things are changing. I field a lot of calls from trainers, and most are reasonably good employers, with the younger ones being best. “Trainers are becoming more reasonable and understanding, but some still don’t realise what moral obligation they have to their staff.”
“Nass has won an awful lot ofmoney for its members over the last few years.”
Source – Racing Post