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
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
"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."
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