Landmark legal case involves workers at an electrical firm who were ‘unlawfully’ induced to sign a new contract without consulting their union.
The case goes back to a Sheffield employment tribunal ruling in February where 56 workers at Kostal UK were granted £420,000 after the firm was found to have made ‘unlawful inducements’ in convincing them to sign a new employment contract without consulting their union – Unite.
Kostal UK, which is based near Rotherham, appealed the ruling and the case will be heard at an employment appeal tribunal in London this week.
Unite have said that the hearing will be the first time an appeal court has considered certain elements of employment law and workers’ rights, making it a landmark case.
Howard Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary for legal services, 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.
Unite say that the initial concerns arose when the company wrote individually to employees in December 2015 threatening them with potentially losing their Christmas bonus if they did not accept a new pay offer and change the terms of their employments. This offer was then repeated to workers who did not accept the initial offer in January 2016, according to Unite.
The offer came after members of the union had voted to reject the company’s proposed changes to pay and other employment terms and conditions.
The Sheffield Employment Tribunal ruled in February that the approaches by Kostal UK amounted to unlawful inducements that contravened section 145B of the Trade Union and Labout Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and awarded Unite members compensation in excess of £420,000.