Unite, the UK’s largest union, is taking legal action in support of members employed by troubled contractor Mears, after the company secretly cut holiday pay.
The 30 plus Unite members undertake housing maintenance work for Mears on homes owned by Wigan and Leigh housing. The workforce is employed for 40 hours a week, however each job they undertake has a set price and their pay varies from week to week.
The workers have a holiday entitlement of 23 days plus bank holidays (a total of 31 days). Mears was paying average holiday pay for the 23 days but not the bank holidays.
For the 2016/17 Christmas/new year period the workforce booked their holiday as normal and were paid on 13 January 2017. It was only at this point that the workers discovered that Mears had secretly, and without warning or consultation, reduced the workers’ holiday pay. On inquiry they were told the company only had to pay average holiday pay on 20 days.
The workforce is losing up to £80 for each day that Mears failed to pay average holiday pay.
At this point Unite regional officer John Sheppard became involved and after taking legal advice informed the company that as the average holiday pay was based on productivity it had to be paid on all 31 days of holiday.
After further investigation Mr Sheppard also acquired a letter from the Mears director of HR conceding that Mears operatives (on a contract in the south of England) should be paid average holiday pay on all their holidays – due to their pay varying depending on the work undertaken.
However after being presented with this evidence and following weeks of delay the local management in Wigan, informed the members they were not aware of the contract in the south of England and would not be changing the policy.
As a result Unite had no option but to launch a legal case for unpaid holiday pay at an employment tribunal.
Unite regional officer John Sheppard said: “This is yet another example of Mears’ appalling local management, which believes that it can treat workers with absolute disdain and cheat them out of their holiday pay.
“Unite did everything possible to resolve this issue through negotiation but I was met with stalling tactics and arrogance.
“If Unite is successful at the employment tribunal then it will cost Mears a great deal more than it was originally paying.
“I hope that Mears is sufficiently embarrassed by this latest example of the arrogant, bullying and cavalier attitude of its local management and takes urgent remedial action to ensure its workforce is treated fairly, decently and with the respect they deserve.”
The initial hearing for the employment tribunal has been scheduled for December.
For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.
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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.