A LANDMARK legal case involving 56 workers from a Dearne Valley factory will go before a national tribunal today.
The staff from Goldthorpe-based Kostal UK were granted £420,000 by a Sheffield employment tribunal in February after the firm was found to have made “unlawful inducements” by urging them to sign a new contract behind their union’s back.
Kostal has appealed the case relating to the Unite union members to the employment appeal tribunal (EAT) in London, and it due to be heard today and tomorrow.
The claims arose after Kostal, despite workers having rejected a pay and conditions offer, sought to bypass union negotiations by writing to workers individually in December 2015 urging them to accept the offer or risk losing a Christmas bonus of £270 each.
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 who did not accept.
The Sheffield ET ruled that both offers amounted to unlawful inducements, contrary to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, and awarded Unite members over £420,000 in compensation.
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett said: “This is the first time an appeal court has considered this vital point of law.
“The EAT’s decision will set a binding legal precedent which employment tribunals across the UK will be obliged to follow in the future.
“This is a key case that employers and trade unions will be watching very closely.
“The importance of today’s hearing cannot be underestimated.
“The case is worth over £420,000 for the Unite members included in the claims and the legal point goes to the very heart and importance of trade union recognition.”
Kostal was invited to comment.