Firm ordered to pay over £420,000 for unlawful attempts to ‘induce’ workers to give up rights

Britain’s largest union, Unite, is celebrating a ground breaking 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.”

Click to download the full employment appeal tribunal written judgment.