The former Labour Party activist Tony Greenstein this week lost a bid to stop his appeal hearing against the Unison trade union — and ended up facing court costs of £4,000. He had initially sought damages of £20,000 against the union, a sum which he admitted in court was a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation.
Brighton-based Greenstein, who was a member of the Local Government branch of the union, took Unison to the High Court on Wednesday, representing himself before Mrs Justice Eady.
He joined the union in 1996, but was suspended in 2018 after a disciplinary panel ruled against him over an allegation of misconduct, made by a Unison official, Steve Terry. He was suspended for three years with the loss of all membership rights, but was able to appeal.
However, Greenstein heard nothing for months from the union about his appeal, and so assumed that the matter had been dropped, and that he was still a member in good standing. He told the court that “I wasn’t suggesting that the appeal had been upheld, rather that it had been abandoned”.
Two things happened to change his mind: in June 2019 he tried to attend the annual general meeting of the War on Want charity, which was held at Unison’s headquarters, but was prevented from entering. He also heard eventually from the union that the appeal process against his three-year suspension was indeed due to take place, and would be held in Brighton on December 16.
Greenstein applied for an injunction to prevent the appeal going ahead, arguing that it would be “against natural justice” to hold the procedure after such a long time. He had complained that he had not been given access to the investigating panel’s notes from the original disciplinary hearing, and questioned why Steve Terry had not been called as a witness.
Unison’s barrister apologised in court for the delay in setting up the appeal and Mrs Justice Eady said she did not accept that the delay was unfair, nor that there was any evidence that the delay was deliberate. The court, she said, “would not micro-manage” proceedings and she held that she was “fully in favour of letting the appeal run its course”.
Though Unison had originally asked for £6,000 in costs, which they said did not represent the amount of work which had gone into defending Greenstein’s action against them, the judge capped the costs at £4,000. Greenstein is now due to attend the scheduled appeal hearing in Brighton next week.