Scotland’s most senior trade union figure is under pressure after an anti-racism worker was awarded almost £17,000 compensation for being unfairly dismissed and victimised after speaking out about discrimination.

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and an adviser to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was repeatedly branded “not credible” by the judges who heard the case of Zaffir Hakim.

Mr Smith, who sits on the First Minister’s advisory council on Europe and other public bodies, made the key decisions leading to Mr Hakim being made redundant. 

The final judgment in the long-running legal battle, which was prolonged by a failed STUC appeal, formally recommended the trade union umbrella body should review its redundancy procedures.

The group, which campaigns for fairness at work, said its failings had been “deeply regrettable” and would ensure there was no repeat of them. 

Mr Hakim, 49, who is of Pakistani descent, worked for the STUC for 11 years, becoming a development officer on its anti-racism project One Workplace Equal Rights (OWER).

In May 2014 he raised a claim of race discrimination against the STUC which led to “tension” in the workplace and “soured” his relationship with Mr Smith.

A tribunal later said Mr Smith was worried the claim would make it harder for the STUC to secure public funding for tackling discrimination.

Indeed, it was the STUC’s own policy to encourage the Scottish Government not to fund any organisation found to operate discriminatory policies. 

Although Mr Hakim withdrew his claim in December 2014, the relationship remained poor and he was made redundant in March 2015 when funding for his post came to an end.

He then raised an unfair dismissal action, claiming he had been discriminated against on the ground of race and victimised. 

A tribunal agreed he had been unfairly dismissed and victimised, but not because of race.

Setting out her findings in November 2016, employment judge Claire McManus criticised the STUC for failing to follow correct redundancy procedures by not considering Mr Hakim for other vacancies, as well as failing to hold proper meetings or keep notes.

She described Mr Smith’s evidence in the case as “not credible” on a number of points - including his description of how he made the key decision.

The tribunal said Mr Smith decided other possible jobs in the STUC were unsuitable for Mr Hakim “without any discussions” with him, and without checking his skills and experience.

The STUC unsuccessfully appealed the 2016 findings and now, almost four years after Mr Hakim was dismissed, his former employer has been ordered to pay him £16,680.

The tribunal awarded him £12,880 for financial loss and £3,800 for injured feelings.

It said the money reflected “failures in respect of lack of proper consultation on the redundancy situation, lack of discussion in respect of the available vacancies and the unfair dismissal”. 

Mr Hakim said he was pleased the tribunal was finally at an end, but disappointed with his pay award, which was massively reduced due to factors including his search for other work.

He told The Herald: “I don’t think it’s reflective of how I was treated. The case has gone on for so long too and it’s been really stressful, impacting on my health, so I’m a bit disappointed with the outcome. I just hope that the STUC now act on the recommendation and start to practice what they preach to ensure that this never happens to another worker.”

The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights urged the STUC to make a full public apology. 

A spokeswoman said: “If the STUC of all organisations can be culpable of such action, it should be a wake up call for all organisations to review their policies and procedures and their treatment of their black minority ethnic staff.”

Equality charity PATH Scotland also said it was “disappointed” there had been no apology, especially as the STUC continues to “preach about employment rights to other employers”.

Director Najimee Parveen said: “Zaffir has gone through a huge amount of stress since winning his case for unfair discrimination and victimisation against the STUC.

“Sadly the STUC prolonged his stress by appealing the judgement and challenging Zaffir on the costs that they were willing to pay. We are disappointed that the STUC have not been willing to acknowledge the impact of their behaviour on Zaffir.”

Lynn Welsh, head of legal in Scotland at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which stepped in to defend Mr Hakim when the STUC appealed the initial tribunal finding, said: “We particularly welcome the Tribunal’s recommendation in this case calling on the STUC to review their redundancy policies and procedures. It’s a good reminder to all employers that policies need to be constantly kept under review to ensure that they operate fairly.”

Mr Smith, whose salary is around £70,000, also earns around £11,000 a year sitting on two government quangos - the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Skills Development Scotland.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Members of public bodies are appointed on merit following a transparent process in which the posts are advertised widely.”

A spokesperson for the STUC said: “The judgement confirms that we were faced with a genuine redundancy situation. We have fully accepted that our processes and procedures were insufficiently robust to deem the redundancy fair. 

“We have already completely reviewed and amended our processes and procedures to ensure that this will never happen again. 

“The award is significantly less than what was claimed and the judgement also makes clear that Mr Hakim contributed to his own dismissal and our failings, while deeply regrettable, were largely procedural."