Royal boroughs parking ticket shame

From the 4th to the 6th of January 2012 Nutsville attended the London Employment Tribunal hearing of the case of Hakim Berkani

Hakim Berkani

Hakim Berkani

versus his former employers NSL Services.

Hakim was employed by NSL Services as a Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO) patrolling the streets of Kensington and Chelsea, who had outsourced their parking enforcement contract to NSL Services.

 

Nutsville has written about the practices of NSL before, most memorably when Channel 4 commissioned a documentary called ‘Confessions of a traffic warden’.  Neighbouring borough Westminster City Council who also uses NSL Services granted access to TV production company Betsy to make a documentary describing what it was like for newly arrived immigrants to work on the streets of London who obtained their first job with NSL Services.

 

At the time a number of CEO’s approached Nutsville to tell their side of the story. We catalogued tails of ticket targets, bullying, substandard working conditions, and examples of any CEO who complained being ‘managed out’ from the company. At the time our interviews were dismissed by both Westminster council and NSL as simply stories from disgruntled troublemaking CEO’s.

 

Now today we have obtained a damming judgement from the London Employment Tribunal (download here) where three Judges Mr Jeremy Burns, Mr T Robinson and Ms N Foster condem NSL Services managers for conducting a sham disciplinary hearing attempting to ‘manage out’ another honest CEO.

 

The unanimous verdict lists a catalogue of events and exposes claims that obtaining the maximum number of parking tickets is really what local councils and their subcontractors are all about, and at whatever cost:

 

  • NSL knew that their CEOs were regularly issuing PCNs unlawfully for taking longer than 5 minutes for loading until Hakim Berkani studied the rules and told his colleagues it was wrong.
  • He was sacked allegedly because he gestured from a distance a reminder to a driver whom he knew not to overstay his parking time.  This was noticed by a supervisor hiding in waiting together with a CEO (who issues more tickets than any other) ready to ticket this car the moment the time expired (if the driver did not return in time).  The preposterous allegation was that he had “endangered her safety and wellbeing”!  This allegation wasn’t made known to Mr Berkani until more than two years after the event!
  • This allegation reveals the misconduct of the other CEO and her supervisor who were hiding for the sole purpose of issuing every PCN possible, this being a common practice in Kensington & Chelsea.
  • It was customary practice known to NSL management to start the PCN issuing process before a contravention had occurred.  Visible CEO presence on the street is an objective of proper enforcement procedure.
  • Some NSL management statements made to the Employment Tribunal flatly contradicted earlier statements of the management presented in evidence.
  • CEO witnesses who gave statements to the Tribunal also contradicted evidence and statements made by the NSL management.  Derogatory allegations made against Mr Berkani by the NSL management were not supported by evidence from his CEO colleagues.
  • Contrary to NSL Management allegations against Mr Berkani, one Manager told the Tribunal that he had never had any complaint about Mr Berkani’s conduct.
  • In the course of an earlier contrived and biased management investigation into Mr Berkani’s alleged behaviour the manger involved had been leading CEO witnesses in their statements and he failed to interview any of Mr Berkani’s colleagues who would have spoken strongly in his favour.
  • One NSL manager categorically denied that there was any performance quota for the issuing of PCNs yet Judges accepted evidence that the managers clearly wanted more rather than less PCNs to be issued. This is corroborated not only by an email from Emma Collins, Regional manager within NSL to Jeff Miles and Andrew Davison (then contract manager) dated 9 November 2009 which reads as follows “there are still significant numbers of people issuing at a rate of below .9 per hour …. we should not feel uncomfortable to use the disciplinary process … etc”.
  • A member of the NSL management (Mr Paul Boxall) actually told the Tribunal that
    “the Press are to blame for us not being able to have ticket targets” ! ! !
  • It was also shown that Kensington & Chelsea Council is fully aware of the unlawful PCN targets and also that they are necessary to achieve the terms of their contract with NSL.
  • NSL management denied that there were any financial rewards but it was shown that there are bonuses and overtime opportunities for those who issue large numbers of PCN and also the giving of Argos Rewards.
  • Mr Berkani became a representative of the GMB union because of the deplorable working conditions at the Fulham CEO operating base.  He dealt with several working condition grievances from his colleagues which annoyed his supervisor.

 

NSL’s management style

Management disregarded Mr Berkani’s complaints about the water at the CEO’s NSL Fulham office which is fed from a roof tank.  It was not safe for drinking and was contrary to health and safety regulations but NSL management refused to provide bottled drinking water.  NSL’s base manager Mr Andrew Dunbar

NSL Base manager Andrew Dunbar

NSL Base manager Andrew Dunbar

is alleged to have told Berkani that he “had a fucking big mouth and was a troublemaker“.

A few days later the Berkani found a large live cockroach in the kitchen and complained to a supervisor who went to report to Dunbar, who responded by suggesting to Berkani that “he was playing games … that the cockroach had come from Berkani’s own home … and that the workplace was like a ‘5 star deluxe’ for the other employees as where they come from they live with worse conditions on a daily basis etc …

Because of the grievances of the CEOs against their NSL management several joined the GMB union to have proper representation.  This angered the NSL management, leading to one occasion where Berkani found that during his absence all his union application forms had been thrown in the bin. On another occasion he found that his locker at work had been forced and that his union diary was missing. When he went to see Dunbar about the binning of the application forms Dunbar refused to speak to him.

The tribunal heard how Dunbar tried to bribe Mr Berkani by offering him the opportunity of a favourable transfer to the NSL vehicle pound (which was highly sought-after position) on the condition that he ceased his union activities, stating “but that if he wanted the job he should immediately stop all his union activities“.

At about this time Dunbar was resistant to providing Berkani (who is a diabetic) with new shoes, requiring him to first to obtain a GPs letter at the cost to Berkani of £25 (to prove the already well known fact that diabetes involves a heightened risk to the health of the sufferers feet), and then telling Berkani that “he does not deserve a pair of shoes because he is a union representative, a lazy fuck, and because he did not issue enough PCNs to justify a new pair”

The tribunal Judge’s thought it was clear that by October 2010 relations between Mr Berkani on the one hand and NSL’s immediate managers, namely Messrs Rowland, Dunbar and Davison had reached a very low ebb. They saw the Berkani as a trouble maker in several respects, principally because he had refused to comply with and had sought to expose publicly the NSL’s clandestine PCN quota system, and because Berkani had become a union activist, and had taken a leading role in organising an increase in union membership, in representing members in grievance and disciplinary hearings against the self same managers, and in raising legitimate health and safety issues.

The Judge’s state “These Managers decided to get rid of the Claimant and schemed to do so by trumping up various alleged disciplinary charges against him.”

 

NSL contract manager Paul Boxall

NSL contract manager Paul Boxall

Mr Boxall another NSL manager became involved in the process when he started visiting the NLS Fulham base from October 2010 onwards as part of his familiarisation process before taking over as contract manager in November 2010. The Judge’s thought that Boxall must have been told by Davison, Dunbar or Rowland and probably by all three that the Mr Berkani should be got rid of and that the place would be much happier if he went. Boxall accepted this argument and in fact told the tribunal that he thought that the base was a better place now without Berkani there (even though he had no first-hand experience of Mr Berkani during normal work conditions).

 

The plot thickens

One step in the plot against Berkani was to get a Ms Cangy a fellow CEO, to write a complaint about Mr Berkani. The Judges said it was a strange document in several respects. Its purported date (possibly 14 September 2010) was doubtful, particularly as it appeared to describe events over a previous period during much of which Berkani had been absent from work on unpaid leave. It was subsequently used by NSL as a complaint about Berkani’s personal conduct, but about that it was very vague. In fact the initial statement by Ms Cangy raises as its main issue Berkani not issuing PCNs, which, if it was a real issue, was a performance issue which NSL had decided not to deal with through any proper channel.

Cangy was interviewed by NSL base manager Steve Rowlands in October 2010 where he pressed her to come up with something more specific against Berkani. The best she was able to come up with was a reference to an incident in the past when Berkani had tipped off a motorist that he was about to get a PCN. It transpired that this incident had in fact taken place in 2008 but had not been complained about by Cangy at the time.

 

NSL Base manager Steve Rowlands

NSL Base manager Steve Rowlands

The Judges concluded that Cangy had been placed under some pressure by the conspiring NSL managers to come up with this material. What she produced was not a genuine complaint which warranted investigation or disciplinary charges.

The Judges said that the same applies to the so-called complaint produced later against the Berkani from a fellow CEO,  Mr Khatri who did not speak or understand English very well or even at all.

According to the Khatri complaint, Berkani had been pressurising him to join the union, and had racially abused him calling him “that bloody asian“. The latter allegation was not corroborated by any other witnesses.

Rowlands helped create a petition to attack Berkani personally and as a union rep.  Although Rowlands initially denied this he subsequently gave inconsistent accounts in different statements to the tribunal about this. The Judges said that Rowlands together with “other managers and seniors which he was not at liberty to identify” had drafted documentation, and caused it to be spread around Berkani’s workplace and placed on the public notice board during his absence.

Rowlands said his only motivation in drawing up these documents was to ensure that the GMB rep was democratically elected, and that he was entirely neutral as to who the rep should be. But the Judge’s thought that was wholly disingenuous as Rowlands eventually admitted having drafting a petition which contained a direct personal attack on Mr Berkani.

Mr Berkani also learnt from fellow CEO’s (which the judges found truthful), that during his absence Rowlands was trying to get CEOs to sign the petition and along with Dunbar was canvassing various employees trying to get them to make statements against Berkani.

Hakim Berkani was suspended on 2th October 2010 and interviewed by a Mr Samsay Samatrai on 29th October. Berkani gave an account of events which Judge’s found to be consistent with his subsequent versions. Berkani complained that he was being made the subject of a propaganda campaign by the two NSL base managers, Rowlands and Dunbar.

Mr Boxall an NSL contract manager later invited Berkani to a so called grievance hearing followed by a disciplinary hearing on 2nd December 2010. However Boxall decided to deal with Berkani’s complaints as a grievance separately from the disciplinary charges.

Judges said that Boxall’s actions were highly artificial and failed to place the Berkani case in its proper context. They went on to say that the fact that Boxall was intent on pressing on with the disciplinary hearing regardless of whether the grievance was well founded or not. By that stage Boxall had been persuaded by the NSL base managers at Fulham Rd that getting rid of Mr Berkani was desirable and Judges said that Boxall was just going through the motions with the sole intention of achieving that objective.

Mr Berkani learnt that the NSL managers (including Boxall) were contacting other CEOs trying to get them to make statements against him. Mr Boxall in evidence admitted making a call to a potential witness but denied that he did so with any improper motive. Mr Berkani said that by then he’d lost faith in NSL’s disciplinary process.

Boxall sacked Mr Berkani by letter dated the 11th February 2011.

Mr Berkani appealed against his dismissal with help from his union rep a Mr Abid. Even Mr Abid had to submit a written complaint after NSL base manager Rowlands bullied and harassed him in an effort to deter him from helping Berkani.

 

NSL’s shame continues upwards

 

NSL reginal manager John Storey

NSL regional manager John Storey

Mr Berkani’s appeal was finally heard by  NSL Services regional manager Mr Storey on 10th March 2011 where he was represented by another union rep, Mr Carter.

 

After the hearing Mr Carter was handed a letter dated 19th January 2011 which neither Mr Carter or Mr Berkani had seen before – it was Boxalls rejection of Berkani’s grievance regarding NSL’s propaganda campaign. Boxall wrote “I cannot conclusively prove that Steve Rowlands produced the documentation that is the foundation of the grievance claim“. Judges branded Boxall’s findings perverse and plainly wrong.  They went on to say “In dealing with the appeal against dismissal Mr Storey appears to have accepted or followed Mr Boxall’s highly questionable conclusions about the Claimant’s grievance. Mr Storey also went off and asked witnesses highly leading questions designed to elicit answers unfavourable to the Claimant. He then dismissed the appeal without giving reasons”

 

The Judges concluded by saying:

  • The Respondent has not shown that the real reason for dismissal was misconduct or any other potentially fair reason.
  • The real reasons for the Claimant’s dismissal were (i) his opposition to the Respondent’s clandestine quota system relating to the issuing of parking contravention notices, and (ii) his trade union activities, neither of which were potentially fair reasons for dismissal within section 98(2) or some other substantial reason of a kind such as to justify dismissal.
  • Messrs Davison, Dunbar and Rowlands were a party to a campaign against the Claimant designed to frame him on trumped-up charges.
  • Mr Boxall and Mr Storey did not have a genuine belief based on reasonable grounds that the Claimant had perpetrated the alleged misconduct. There was substantial evidence on which they should have concluded that the Claimant was being victimised and that the original complaints against the claimant were simply an expression of this.
  • The so called misconduct – consisting in the Claimant not issuing PCNs because he was scared and unsupported, trying to persuade CEOs to join his union, and taking issue when he was on the receiving end of serious provocation from Messrs Dunbar and Rowlands would- not have justified dismissal in any event, even if these matters had been the genuine reason.
  • The disciplinary process was a sham designed to get rid of the claimant while skating over or ignoring the genuine serious counter-complaints which he had raised.
  • In final submissions Mr Preston suggested that the Claimant was guilty of contributory fault consisting in firstly his not attending the disciplinary hearings before Mr Boxall after 2nd December 2010. However, with good reason, he had lost faith in the process. He asked for a new process in front of an independent decision maker, but was refused.
  • Secondly it was suggested that he had refused to see matters from his “employers point of view”. However the main areas of disagreement were (i) that the Claimant objected to being forced to issue PCNs under a quota system, whereas the Respondents managers were seeking to advance such a system on a clandestine basis; and (ii) that the Claimant wanted to be able to pursue legitimate union activities on behalf of his union members in the face of severe illegitimate opposition to this from managers. We do not think that the Claimant refusal to share his managers’ views on either of these subjects can be justly described as contributory fault on his part.
  • There is also no basis for making a finding that had matters been dealt with fairly and properly, that the Claimant would have been dismissed anyway (ie under the Polkey principle).

 

NSL managers Boxall and Story arguing outside the tribunal

NSL managers Boxall and Story arguing outside the tribunal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NSL managers Boxall and Story arguing outside the tribunal

NSL managers Boxall and Story arguing outside the tribunal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NSL managers Boxall and Story arguing outside the tribunal

NSL managers Boxall and Story arguing outside the tribunal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

Mark SaundersJanuary 27th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

What a catalogue of shame, back stabbing and mis-management at every level. Of course, it’s exactly what you’d imagine does go on at NSL, but to see it documented by an independent tribunal is still an eye opener.

Mr Berkani is a proper stand up bloke, and ironically has shown the very best of British fair play and doggedness. I’m so glad this has finally worked out in his favour.

Mr MustardJanuary 27th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Barnet Council don’t seem to have any worries about giving NSL the enforcement contract that has just been tendered. I don’t think the good honest citizens will stand for anything other than fair play. The appeal rate is going to rocket.

Bob HayesFebruary 3rd, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Great news about Hakim’s Employment Tribunal case and the wider fallout. Not long after his election as a union rep, Hakim attended a couple of shop steward training courses on which I was the tutor. A genuine fella with a strong sense of justice. Great to see that you won your case!

MusafaAugust 12th, 2013 at 3:44 am

I think you want to see the history of Mr. Hakim before you like, put mouth in action before engaging brain. I’m under the belief that he previously worked for a ferry/cruise company and got oodles of cash out of them for almost the same reason. He likes ‘un-works on’ then claims unfair dismissal without doing anything! In other words a timewaster and lamer!
Maybe NSL handled it shamefully however this bloke is the , it appears the epigraphy of a ‘loser / waster’ and here to exploit the UK working standards! Hey look out for this bloke and if you lose it’ll be hard to get rid of him bacause he appears to be a serious lazy one who actually wants to exploit you!
M

MusafaAugust 12th, 2013 at 3:48 am

Mr.Mustard, How can you make that assumption I ask?
These things are governed by law so if anyone get’s a PCN then they (normally) deserve it? Stop making ‘knocking down’ statements without any evidence! Okay I guess by your comments you are above all that – I think NOT!
M

DaveOctober 22nd, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Yeah, what does a tribunal know eh?

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