Who? Maria Ludkin, legal director at trade union GMB.
Why is she in the news? Represented 116 GMB members who appeared on a ‘blacklist’ accessed by major construction companies. GMB settled a number of claims for £5.4m plus costs of around £3m, with some members receiving up to £200,000. This was part of a broader settlement involving 771 claimants.
Thoughts on the case: ‘A case like this comes along once in a decade. It was a fantastic opportunity to put together a multi-pronged strategy – which was led by legal – of political and industrial campaigning, and a very strong media campaign. Pulling all these threads together enabled us to support the legal strategy devised by Leigh Day and superb counsel, which was aggressively pursued.’
Dealing with the media: ‘As legal director at the GMB, I utilise the media as one tool in my toolbox on all the significant cases that we run. Whether that’s Tesco [the child of one of the GMB’s members brought a race discrimination claim as a result of being stopped and searched in Tesco, and received a £3,000 settlement] or a very large case like construction industry blacklisting. It’s important to use all methods to keep the pressure up on the defendants who are often most concerned about their brand reputation.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘When I was 13 I watched the TV show Petrocelli and believed that lawyers spoke truth to power. You live and learn.’
Career high: ‘Apart from blacklisting, a multi-party claim for 3,000 pensioners against seven major building societies for the mis-selling of home income plans in the early 1990s.’
Career low: ‘As sources for legal financing diminish, there are fewer and fewer ways for ordinary people to use the courts to achieve a just outcome. As a union we cannot run every case we would like to.’