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Pub owner loses tribunal for flouting redundancy consultation laws

Extract from employment tribunal .gov website
Glasgow Pub Owner Loses Employment Tribunal for Flouting Redundancy Consultation Laws

Pub owner loses tribunal for flouting redundancy consultation laws

A Glasgow music bar owner embroiled in a dispute with the Unite union has been ordered to pay 90 days pay to her employees, after she made them redundant without following established procedures.

Collective consultation requires employers to elect representatives to engage in consultation for a minimum of (in this case) 30 days prior to issuing redundancy termination notices, with the minimum statutory period for consultations increasing to 45 days where more than 100 redundancies are proposed.

Consultation must be ‘meaningful’ and must meet certain criteria to be judged to be fair. Jacqueline Fennessy , the owner of the popular music venue in Glasgow called the ‘13th Note’, did none of these things and made her staff redundant without consultation following a dispute with her staff & the Unite union.

What was the dispute about?

Some of the venue’s employees were members of the Unite union – Unite alleged that staff were poorly paid and badly treated, and coordinated a series of weekend strikes which impacted severely on the venue’s business.

Although Jacqueline Fennessy claimed that immediate closure was due to significant health and safety issues, there is some inference that the closure may have been a reaction to the dispute with Unite. Last year P&O Ferries dismissed their entire workforce in a move many believed was designed to get rid of the RMT union.

Was this a victory for the union?

A hollow one perhaps, ultimately the employees of this pub lost their jobs, and while 90 days pay may be a welcome boost, some may see it as pretty skinny compensation for having to secure new employment.

P&O got away with it, why didn’t this pub owner?

The key difference is that P&O signed legal settlement agreements offering enhanced compensation payments, which included and far exceeded the statutory redundancy payments that were due to their dismissed employees.

In offering generous compensation packages, P&O gave workers the opportunity to achieve compensation awards over and above what they would have achieved in employment tribunals, with none of the costs associated with bringing a legal claim.

So, if this dispute delivered a ‘hollow victory’ for the union, did the employer come off best?

Unions have a track record of generating negative PR in order to pressure employers into submission, and this is exactly what Jacqueline Fennessy alleged happened in this case.

She’s not alone in the Glasgow hospitality scene in complaining about the bullying behaviour of Unite – the Times newspaper revealed that it had spoken to 17 other business owners in the region who had similar tales to tell.

Ultimately the business owner here has suffered massive reputational damage. Employment tribunals are public forums, and adding to her problems was a Union official determined to pour fuel onto the fire.

What can employers take from this case?

This could be the shape of things to come. Unions have typically had a fairly low impact in the hospitality sector, but bearing in mind that increasing their influence and involvement is a central thrust of a future Labour government’s employment policy, we can expect to see increasing union activity, not just in hospitality, but across all sectors.

Employers, particularly SME employers, will come under increasing scrutiny and will be open to legal challenges that many may have thought they could dodge previously.

HR support from myHRdept

Pre-redundancy consultations are a serious business, and over the course of the last 3 years myHRdept has designed and run more than a dozen collective redundancy consultations for employers, some of whom have been retained clients of our HR outsourcing services, some of whom have been introduced to us specifically for the purpose of the consultations.

Our services aren’t free of course, but in the context of reputational damage and 90 days pay compensation for each employee, investing in professional HR assistance for redundancy consultations seems a sensible option.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR, payroll or health and safety needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515, email us at  enquiries@myhrdept.co.uk to discuss your requirements, or contact us via our website and we’ll call you back.

www.myhrdept.co.uk

 

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