Unite appeals to the Supreme Court to defend trade union rights

Unite said it would be going to the Supreme Court to appeal today’s (Thursday 13 June) decision by the Court of Appeal which overturned previous rulings by an employment appeal tribunal and employment tribunal ordering Kostal UK to pay 55 Unite members more than £420,000 in compensation after making ‘unlawful inducements.’

Expressing bitter disappointment, Unite said it strongly disagreed with the Court of Appeal’s decision and would continue to fight for justice for Kostal UK Limited workers in a case which has far reaching consequences for trade union rights. 

An employment appeal tribunal had rejected an earlier appeal by Kostal UK against a decision of a Sheffield employment tribunal in February 2017, which ordered the firm, based near Rotherham, to pay the workers compensation.

The claims arose after Kostal sought 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 break the union and divide members, 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 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 who did not accept.

The Sheffield 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.

This decision was then upheld by the employment appeal tribunal in December 2017 and became legally binding on employment tribunals across the country.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “We are extremely disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the previous rulings of an employment appeal tribunal and employment tribunal.

“We think the decision is wrong and will be seeking permission from the Supreme Court to appeal. 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.”