Businessman moaning about tribunal fees decision is a millionaire Tory donor who lost a landmark employment battle

While working people are celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling that tribunal fees are “unlawful”, not everyone is happy at the prospect of money no longer being a barrier to justice.

Charlie Mullins, the millionaire boss of Pimlico Plumbers and Tory donor, could barely contain his fury on World at One.

He told the programme the judgement was “absolutely disgraceful” – but then he was taken to an employment tribunal by a worker who claimed he was fired after suffering a heart attack.

Mullins claimed today’s ruling would cause unemployment and said it would “open the flood gates” to claims from people who are just to see what they can get out of it.” 

“Many people that go to these tribunals, they’re busy bodies, they’re troublemakers, they have a history of going to tribunals.

“The average good worker wants to get on with the job. If they’ve got a minor issue…if it’s a major issue, course it needs to go to a tribunal, but most of these things are very minor. And I’m saying to you, the fact that it [fees] cut down [employment tribunal cases] from 7,5000 to 1,500 it proves the point.

“Many of these claims are miscellaneous or whatever the word is…malicious claims…and I’m saying to you this is opening the flood gates.

“I mean unemployment hasn’t gone down to 1.5 million just by itself, it’s gone down because companies are more happy and more grateful to take on people knowing that we’re not going to have all these people that want to take us to the courts.”

Mullins has personal experience of employment tribunals, having lost a five year legal battle with one of his company’s former plumbers, Gary Smith.

Smith claimed he was wrongfully dismissed by Mullins after suffering a heart attack. The employment tribunal did not rule on the claim.

But it did make a judgement over whether Smith was a self-employed contractor – and therefor ineligible for sick pay or holiday pay – as Mullins claimed.

That allowed him to avoid paying millions of pounds in national insurance contributions.

But the original tribunal held in 2012 – a year before fees were imposed by the Tories – found that Smith was not self-employed but a worker and should have received all the benefits that come with it.

In 2014, Mullins appealed and the case went to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, where he lost again.

In 2017, Mullins took the case all the way to the Court of Appeal and lost for a third time.

The ruling was hailed as a landmark case that had the potential to prevent false self employment in the gig economy.

No wonder Mullins and his millionaire friends are upset…

More: Supreme Court judge explains the rule of law to Tories in withering demolition of tribunal fees