Aggrieved workers seeking redress at the Labour Tribunal have complained of being bulldozed by frontline and judicial staff into dropping or settling their claims, flouting their right to due process. In one case, a woman who attempted to claim constructive dismissal - by moving her to an untenable job - at the tribunal was told by an officer that she was wasting her time 'because it wasn't in the law'. Other workers have had to battle with tribunal staff who take a red pen to their forms, changing their claims or telling them they do not have a case. If they actually make it to the tribunal, claimants still feel they are being bullied into abandoning their case. Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan will lobby Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang to urgently investigate the situation as the number of people filing claims continues to swell. The number of workers taking their bosses to the tribunal has jumped by more than 37 per cent since 1995. Lawyers, workers groups and human rights activists believe the system is so overwhelmed that many employees are being given short shrift. Barrister John Wright, who also helps with a free legal advice service, is scathing of what he sees of manipulation to lessen the tribunal's workload. 'Interference with cases is outrageous. It's disgraceful. I've long had the view the Labour Tribunal as a medium for solving labour disputes has broken down. It's not working. They're not giving them due process.' He cited one case where a claimant had her case pencilled through by a clerk. 'Change this, change that. It's interference. The machine has broken down,' he said. A woman, Diane, who lodged a constructive dismissal claim, was told by an officer from the Labour Department that she did not have a case because the phrase was not in their advice booklet and therefore was not a legal term. She also told Diane - after the boss failed to turn up for conciliation - that she could not get a penny from her employer and should drop the claim. Diane asked her: 'Can you tell me what constructive dismissal is?' 'I cannot tell you,' the officer said. Diane persevered. But on her next appointment the same woman told her she should not proceed unless she was claiming a large amount of money. Under employment law, not only is Diane entitled to claim constructive dismissal but she is also eligible for damages. A spokeswoman for the Labour Department said the officer concerned had only advised Diane that 'she may have difficulty' pursuing a constructive dismissal claim. 'The officer just explained the facts to her,' she said. 'The Labour Department doesn't have the power to make the judgment. It's the court that makes such a judgment.' A more acute concern is that presiding officers themselves are also throwing cold water on people's claims. 'We believe the system itself of quick justice is correct,' legislator Mr Lee said, adding: 'It's just that the presiding officer abuses the system to pressure people to settle. Things are getting worse - there are more and more cases now. Because of the workload, they want to try to get rid of as many cases as possible. Unions are awash with complaints of this nature. 'The problem is that in the Labour Tribunal these people are without legal representation - so the presiding officer should be very careful in the way they approach the case. They haven't heard everything yet.' Mr Lee said the unions would urge the chief justice to look into the situation. Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said: 'In some instances I have been in the hearing itself. The presiding officer started to lecture everybody, about 30 people, about the pros and cons - how it's time consuming; you may feel your case is strong, but it could be dubious . . . 'Then she said: 'If you have a settlement among yourselves, you get it immediately, or it [the case] may run forever'. It's a lot of pressure - she spent a whole hour on this, instead of getting to any concrete trial.' Mr Law stressed: 'This kind of role conflict is very detrimental, at least to the image of the tribunal. These people's rights have been infringed. Surely there's something seriously wrong if you need the presiding officer to take up the role of advising people to leave.' A spokeswoman for the Judiciary said: 'Claimants have the legal right to pursue appropriate claims at the Labour Tribunal. It is never the policy of the Labour Tribunal to discourage anyone from filing claims.'