Court of Appeal rules in favour of unions after London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority reneges on pay deal

Tim Lezard

Court of AppealMembers of GMB and UNISON are in line for a pay cheque of £2,600 after their unions won a four-year legal battle for pay justice.

They challenged the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s decision not to honour the third year of an agreed pay deal that would have given staff a 2.5% pay rise in April 2009.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “When employers make an agreement with UNISON, we expect them to stick to it. Trust is an integral part of any negotiations and I am pleased that we have been able to deliver pay justice to our members at the LFEPA. Times are tough for many public service workers without being denied a pay rise that they are entitled to.

“It has taken a four year legal battle to win this case. Without the union to fight this case the employers would have got away with a gross injustice and members and their families would have lost out.”

GMB regional officer Clive Smith said: “This is great news for our members. It has been a long battle and the GMB are delighted that this decision has finally brought justice for our members.

“Staff will receive increases ranging from £182 per annum to £664 per annum. The backdated amounts to cover the four years range from £750 to £2600.

“I have no doubt that this was a politically motivated decision by the Tory dominated authority, at that time led by Brian Coleman.  The authority chose to spend money on lawyers and barristers in an attempt to backtrack on a settlement negotiated and signed off in 2007. Coleman has now got his comeuppance. GMB is prepared to fight all the way to defend our members’ rights.”

The unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal in favour of the union stated: “In my judgement, it means that in that year the employees would receive an increase of 2.5% or NJC plus 1%, whichever was the greater. Looking at the matter objectively, no other meaning made or would have made industrial sense. No other meaning would have represented a three-year deal which the unions would have contemplated and, objectively, that must have been obvious to the employer”.

UNISON LFEPA branch secretary Tony Phillips said: “Fire and rescue staff are delighted with the successful outcome of this case. We hope that it will show unscrupulous employers that they cannot get away with reneging on written agreements with trade unions when they no longer suit them”.

UNISON is warning that the judgment could be used as precedent to scotch attempts by employers to take an unduly technical approach when applying collective agreements. It is also an authority for collective agreements having enforceable rights for workers.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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