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Supreme Court to hear landmark case for compensation following breach of trade union rights

The Supreme Court will tomorrow (Tuesday 18 May) hear a landmark case involving members of Unite owed more than £420,000 in compensation by Rotherham-based automotive component maker, Kostal UK Limited, who it is argued made ‘unlawful inducements’ to undermine a collective agreement.

Six year battle

Unite, the UK’s leading union, has taken the six year-long battle for justice to the Supreme Court after a Court of Appeal hearing in 2019 overturned the previous decisions of an employment tribunal and employment appeal tribunal to award the workers’ compensation.

The case dates back to 2015, when Kostal attempted to bypass union negotiations in the first pay talks since the majority of the company’s workforce voted in favour of Unite being recognised as their trade union.

Inducements

In an attempt to break the union, the company wrote directly to members who had heavily rejected the company’s pay offer and urged them to accept their offer individually and accept changes to their employment or lose a Christmas bonus worth £270.

The offer was then repeated to those who did not accept it in January 2016 and was then coupled with the threat of dismissal if workers did not accept.

Previous decisions 

The employment 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. The decision was upheld at the Employment Appeal Tribunal but then overturned at the Court of Appeal.

Critical case

Unite assistant general secretary for legal, Howard Beckett, said: “With employers currently using the cover of Covid to attack the terms and conditions of workers across the board, this is a critical case.

“Employment rights and trade union recognition are hard won and employers should not be allowed to offer inducements to undermine collective agreements.

“This case goes to the very heart of union recognition and the right to collectively bargain and it is for this reason that Unite has been pursuing this case for six years and has been determined to win justice for its members.

“It is hoped that the Supreme Court will support Unite’s case and ensure that other employers think long and hard before attempting to undermine workers’ collective agreements.”

Deferred decision

It is expected that following the one day hearing the Supreme Court will make a deferred decision which will be announced later this year.