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Woolworths workers win fight for compensation

Shopworkers union says most of 24,000 people who lost jobs will receive 60 days’ pay because administrators failed to consult

Former Woolworths employees have been awarded a total of up to £67.8m in compensation, the shopworkers’ union Usdaw said on Friday.

More than 24,000 workers who were made redundant when the high-street chain collapsed in 2008 will be awarded 60 days’ pay. Usdaw won the compensation after an employment tribunal, where it claimed the administrators had failed in their legal duty to consult with the union before making redundancies.

However, the compensation will not apply to 3,000 people who worked in smaller branches where fewer than 20 redundancies were made, the union spokesman said.

Responsibility for the payments rests with the taxpayer through the government’s Redundancy Payments Office because the defunct chain was in administration at the time of the redundancies.

John Gorle, Usdaw national officer, said: “While the award is never going to fully compensate people for losing their jobs, I’m sure our members will welcome the money and appreciate the effort Usdaw has made to secure the compensation for them. Cases like this once again demonstrate the immense value of belonging to a trade union.”

“However, I’m once again bitterly disappointed that a tribunal has limited the scope of the award. The fact that some of our members won’t be compensated simply because their store had less than 20 employees is just plain wrong and shows the gaping loophole and injustice of the current legislation.

” Nearly 30,000 employees were made redundant from Woolworths at the same time and for the same reason, so to suggest 3,000 of them didn’t constitute a collective redundancy is a nonsense.”

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “My delight at the award for the vast majority of our members is tempered by the clear injustice that workers in smaller stores could miss out.

“Usdaw thinks that the UK’s current interpretation of the law on collective redundancies is both unfair and possibly a breach of the European directive which seeks to protect workers in large-scale redundancy situations. We are taking further expert legal advice and it is highly likely we will appeal against this part of the judgment.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds