29 January 2014
A landmark victory by trade union Usdaw is being appealed against by the government at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
Last year, an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decided in favour of the union, which was calling for decent compensation for workers who had been made redundant from Woolworths and Ethel Austin shops.
The law around collective redundancy states that consultation with a trade union must be taken where 20 or more workers are to be dismissed “at one establishment”.
As a result, Ethel Austin and Woolworths only conducted consultations at branches where 20 or more workers were employed. These employees received a larger payout than those working in smaller stores.
The EAT judged that the “at one establishment” rule should be disregarded in this instance, and every worker should receive a protective award, regardless of the size of the branch they were employed in.
This has significant consequences for trade unions, who will now be able to argue for similar judgements to be made in other mass redundancy situations.
Although the government chose not to send a representative to the EAT, the Coalition has now appealed after the fact.
The Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Vince Cable, took the case to the Court of Appeal, which has subsequently referred it to the CJEU to be heard with a similar case between Lyttle and Bluebird UK Bidco Ltd.
A BIS spokesperson last year told Personnel Today: “The reason for appealing this judgment is that in reaching its decision we think the EAT has got the law wrong and it is our view that the decision will have wider implications.”