Britain’s largest union, Unite is celebrating a groundbreaking legal victory today (Wednesday 13 December) after an employment appeal tribunal ordered that the engineering firm Kostal pays over £420,000 in compensation for trying to unlawfully induce workers into giving up their collective trade union rights.
The London employment appeal tribunal judgement received today upholds an earlier ruling by the Sheffield employment tribunal that found in favour of 56 Unite members working at the south Yorkshire based firm, Kostal. Setting an important legal precedent which is binding on employment tribunals across the UK, the judgment strengthens trade union collective bargaining rights against union busting bosses.
The claims arose after Kostal sought to bypass union negotiations in the first 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, 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. Today the employment appeal tribunal has upheld that decision and set the first legally binding precedent on this important piece of trade union law.
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett 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.
“Unite would like to thank Thompsons solicitors. Their legal team has once again shown that they stand shoulder to shoulder with the trade union movement.”
For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
• The vast majority of the top 50 companies have formal bargaining agreements with unions. This is called 'recognition'. - TUC Statistics
• The average union member earns more than the average non-member. For example, in private companies the union 'mark-up' gives members an extra seven pence in the pound - TUC Statistics.
• The average union member gets seven days more paid holiday (30 days of annual leave, excluding bank holidays) than the average non-member (23 days). - TUC Statistics.
• Unite Legal Services acts for over 20,000 members a year and recovered over £209 million in damages in 2016. Unite Legal Services provides support to members in respect of all types of employment tribunal claims. Unite legal services has taken the most high profile of employment cases over the last 12 months, and secured legal victories in significant claims for the benefit of members.
• Unite Legal Services recently won the holiday pay cases allowing workers to receive their normal pay in their times of rest, this win alone was worth tens of millions in compensation for Unite members.