No justice for Woolworths workers

The Woolworths store in Bellshill
The Woolworths store in Bellshill

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has today rejected Usdaw’s case for Woolworths and Ethel Austin members in stores of less than 20 employees to be included in the protective awards against both companies.

With the fight being over for Woolworths and Ethel Austin workers, Usdaw is now turning its attention to seeking a change in the law to protect future redundant workers from suffering the same injustice.

John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, said: “This decision marks the end of the road for our members from Woolworths and Ethel Austin seeking justice and they are heartbroken by today’s verdict.

“Our case is morally and logically robust, so today’s verdict is a kick in the teeth.

“It is unfair and makes no sense that workers in stores of less than 20 employees were denied compensation, whereas their colleagues in larger stores did qualify for the award.

“These were mass redundancy situations where one central decision was made to close the whole company down, with no individual analysis of the viability of each store on a case-by-case basis.

“The companies, through their administrators, have already been shown to have acted illegally by failing to consult about the redundancies with the workforce and their trade union Usdaw.

“A protective award was made by an employment tribunal and workers in stores of over 20 staff were paid years ago and we’ve since been seeking justice for the staff in stores of less than 20 employees.

“There has to be questions asked about the conduct of Government Ministers - having sided with administrators, who acted illegally, against the best interests of hard-working, loyal and low-paid staff, by pursuing this case to the highest available court.

“They could have simply accepted the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and justice would have been served.

“We can now only pin our hopes on the election of a Labour Government to prevent this happening again to other workers in small stores who are made redundant without proper consultation.

“Only Labour has pledged legislation so that in large-scale redundancy situations, workers from all workplaces affected will be treated as part of the same consultation, in line with the EAT decision on Woolworths and Ethel Austin.’

The case was heard by the CJEU in Luxembourg on November 20, in a conflated hearing with the Lyttle case from Northern Ireland and Rabal case from Spain and has wider implications for workers made redundant in Comet, Jessops, and Phones-4-U.