Merry Christmas - workers win £425,000 compensation battle

By Michael Upton | 22/12/2017

Merry Christmas - workers win £425,000 compensation battle

DOZENS of workers whose employers tried to force them into accepting a pay deal while bypassing their union were given the perfect early Christmas present when a national tribunal ruled they must be paid £425,000 between them.

Kostal UK, which is based in Goldthorpe, appealed an earlier move by a regional tribunal to award the 56 Unite members £7,600 compensation each for its breach of employment law.

But, two years after the dispute erupted, the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London has now upheld the ruling, meaning the company will have to cough up.

Unite took Kostal to court after Kostal sought to bypass union negotiations in pay talks after the majority of the company’s 700 strong workforce voted in favour of Unite being recognised as their trade union. 

In an attempt to break the union and divide members, who had voted strongly to reject the company’s pay offer and proposed changes to terms and conditions, including cuts in sick pay and Sunday overtime, the company wrote to employees in December 2015 directly urging them to accept the offer individually and changes to their terms of employment, or risk losing a Christmas bonus of £270 each if they did not. 

The offer was then repeated to those that did not accept it in January 2016, coupled that time with the threat of dismissal for any employee who did not accept.

The Sheffield tribunal ruled that both offers amounted to unlawful inducements, contrary to section 145B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and awarded Unite members over £420,000 in compensation. 

And last Wednesday, the EAT panel backed that ruling.

Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Becket said: “This employment appeal tribunal ruling sends a strong message to bosses who attempt to bust unions and undermine collective bargaining for pay and terms and conditions.   

“Not only is the case worth over £420,000 to the Unite members involved, but it sets a binding legal precedent that employers cannot dip in and out of collective bargaining when it suits their purposes.

“The right for a union to bargain collectively goes to the heart of trade union recognition and is why trade union members on average enjoy higher wages and more paid holidays than workers who aren’t a member of a union.

“As this case bears testament, Unite will not stand by and allow bad bosses to undermine that right by offering bribes or delivering threats to their workers. 

“Unite’s strategic case unit will continue to identify cases that go to the very core of addressing the abuses and bad practices that have been adopted by the worst employers.”

Kostal UK declined to comment.

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