Supreme Court to hear appeal on £420,000 compensation for breach of trade union rights

Howard Beckett

The Supreme Court will be the final arbiter in a five-year-old case of 55 Unite members who are owed compensation of more than £420,000 by Kostal UK Limited, which made 'unlawful inducements’.

After the Court of Appeal last summer overturned the previous rulings of an employment appeal tribunal and employment tribunal, the UK’s top court has allowed the appeal by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union.

No date has yet been set for the Supreme Court hearing.

Howard Beckett, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “We are delighted that the Supreme Court has allowed Unite’s appeal against the extremely disappointing Court of Appeal’s decision last summer to overturn the previous rulings of an employment appeal tribunal and employment tribunal.

“This is a case which goes right to the heart of trade union recognition and the right to collectively bargain. It is one that we will continue to pursue to protect trade union rights and to get justice for our members.”

This latest development goes back to an employment appeal tribunal (EAT) in December 2017 which dismissed the appeal by Kostal UK against the decision of a Sheffield employment tribunal (ET) in February 2017 that had ordered the firm based near Rotherham, to pay the workers the compensation.

The Court of Appeal overturned these previous decisions. This will now be examined by the Supreme Court which will hear the new appeal.

The case stems from Kostal’s efforts to bypass union negotiations in the first pay talks since the majority of the company's 700-strong workforce voted in favour of Unite being recognised as their trade union.

In an attempt to divide members of the union, who had voted strongly to reject the company's pay offer and proposed changes to terms and conditions, in December 2015 the company wrote to employees directly urging them to accept the offer individually and to change their own terms of employment or risk losing a Christmas bonus of £270 each if they did not.

Those that did not accept received a repeat of the offer in January 2016, coupled that time with the threat of dismissal for any who did not accept.

The Sheffield ET 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. This decision was then upheld by the EAT.