UNISON wins landmark legal decision for Barnet council workers

More than 150 Barnet Council workers are set to receive compensation, following a landmark decision, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, after a decision of the Employment Tribunal announced today (5 February).

The Employment Tribunal in Watford ruled that the council was in breach of changes to s 188 and regulation 13 of TUPE brought in by the Agency Workers’ Regulations by failing to provide UNISON with information on the number of agency workers employed by Barnet Council.

UNISON asked for the information to protect council workers as part of a wider consultation over redundancies and the transfer of staff.

The Tribunal made protective awards of 60 days’ and compensation of 40 and 50 days’ pay in respect of two transfers and a redundancy exercise that took place last year.

The union welcomed today’s decision, as it is one of the first cases, brought under provisions introduced at the same time as the Agency Workers’ Regulations in October 2011. They require employers to provide information on the agency workers engaged during TUPE transfers and collective redundancy consultation.

The Judge in the case described Barnet’s refusal to provide information as “a relatively serious failure”. And UNISON said the decision, upholding the requirement to provide information on agency workers, has important ramifications for other unions, to help them negotiate more effectively and avoid redundancies.

Dave Prentis General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“Today’s landmark decision is an important step forward in protecting workers when they are under threat of redundancy or transfer. It must act as a warning to other councils that they must provide information on agency workers to unions or suffer the consequences.

“Across the country, councils are cutting and outsourcing services. Workers need to be protected from having their rights ridden over roughshod. Today’s decision is recognition of the difficulties that unions face when employers withhold information that could and should be given.”

John Burgess, Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary, said:

“We welcome this decision which recognises the hard work of our local reps who have consistently raised the issue of agency workers data over the last three and half years.”

Our reps repeatedly warned the Council about their responsibilities to provide the agency data at a time when staff are at ‘risk of redundancy’ and outsourcing. Barnet Council have become increasingly reliant on consultants and chose to ignore our attempts to resolve this matter locally.”

The Employment Tribunal found:

1. That the Respondent (Barnet Council) failed to comply with s 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 in respect of redundancies that took effect on 31 March 2012 by failing to provide information on agency workers;

2. The Respondent failed to comply with r 13 of TUPE 2006 in respect of transfers on 1 April and 1 May 2012 by failing to provide information on agency workers; and 3. The Tribunal has made protective awards of 60 days and compensation of 40 and 50 days respectively in respect of these breaches.