Tribunal ruled that retailer failed to consult Usdaw over sacking of 24,000 workers when company collapsed in 2008


Usdaw has won compensation worth up to £67.8 million for more than 24,000 former Woolworths employees made redundant when the firm collapsed at the end of 2008.

The iconic high street retailer went into administration on 27 November 2008 and by early January 2009 the administrators had closed all of Woolworths stores, offices and distribution centres and made nearly 30,000 people redundant in the process.

Usdaw made a claim on behalf of its members for a Protective Award after the administrators failed in their legal duty to consult with the union before making redundancies. After many months of legal wrangling, the Employment Tribunal finally heard the case involving members employed in England, Scotland and Wales in late November 2011.

The tribunal found the administrators had failed in their legal obligations to consult with Usdaw and awarded its members compensation of 60 days pay, capped at £330 a week, the maximum payable in these circumstances.

Usdaw says the award excludes some 3,000 former employees who worked in smaller stores where fewer than 20 redundancies were made.

Usdaw national officer John Gorle 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. 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 is taking legal further legal advice on the UK’s current interpretation of the law on collective redundancies and whether it is a breach of the European Directive which seeks to protect workers in large scale redundancy situations.

Officials say they may appeal the section of the judgement which excluded the 3,000 employees from smaller stores.

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