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Date: Tues 11 November 2008

Home help takes equal pay lawyer to court

Home Help Jacqueline Quinn is taking equal pay lawyer Stefan Cross to court after he charged her £500 for taking her case to another lawyer. And last night Jacqueline, who works for Edinburgh City Council: "I think his bill is out of order and I am determined not to pay. "But goodness knows how many other Scots workers are in the same position."

Newcastle based Cross shot to prominence by persuading thousands of local authority workers up and down the country to let him pursue their equal pay claims, rather than rely on their trade unions.

Jacqueline, 51, of Hutchison Avenue, Edinburgh, said: "I thought Mr Cross would get me a quick settlement of my equal pay claim, but I didnít realise there was a horrific penalty clause in the contract. "The clause says that if I end the agreement or change lawyers before the case is settled I have to pay him £500 for every six months I was on his booksÖand if I go on to win the case I still have to pay him 100% of his costs on top of the £500.

"But thatís not all. If I accept an offer to settle the case, he still gets 10% of my compensation."

Jacqueline who has worked for the council for 22 years added: "Itís absolutely outrageous and my new lawyers think itís illegal. "I went back to UNISON, my trade union, when I hadnít heard a word from Mr Cross for three months.

"But then I started getting letters threatening to take me to an English County Court if I did not pay him. to recover his so-called debt, and I was terrified I would end up with a huge legal bill.

"Now UNISON has gone to court to stop him hassling me."

UNISON's Scottish Organiser Glyn Hawker said: "Stefan Cross portrays himself as the people's champion but we've been warning our members for years that it will cost them if they instruct him.

"If he persuades a couple of thousand council workers to sign up with him, he only has to win one case, and the local authority will end up paying all the outstanding claims and he gets 10% of all their compensation. Thatís a huge return.

"And it does not stop there, he can still charge our members £1,000 a year for the privilege of having signed up with him should they decide to take their case elsewhere."

Syd Smith, Senior Partner with Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland who represent UNISON said: "This case has huge implications for thousands of workers who may have signed up with Mr Cross and believe that they cannot go to another solicitor, no matter how dissatisfied they may be, for fear of crippling penalty charges.

"We believe Mr Cross is wrong on three points of law. Solicitors in Scotland cannot charge flat rate contingency fees. In other words, they cannot take a percentage cut from a persons money no matter what work was done. If we wanted to make a charge in these circumstances we would have to submit a detailed bill for all the work we had done. He cannot put penalties into these contracts.

"Mr Cross must also know perfectly well that he cannot go to an English County Court to try and enforce a contract he signed with a Scottish client in Scotland.

"Thatís why we are seeking an interdict to stop his threats of action against Mrs Quinn."

End

For further information please contact: Glyn Hawker, Scottish Organiser, UNISON 07876 441 237(m) Syd Smith, Senior Partner, Thompsons 0131 225 4297 John Scott, John Scott Communications, for Thompsons 07917 729 201(m) Fiona Montgomery, Information Development Officer, 0141 342 2852

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