Union members win redundancy payments battle
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 312 28 March 2013
Several hundred PCS members previously employed in jobcentres on fixed term contracts are now entitled to proper redundancy payments following a key employment tribunal ruling.
The case, pursued by Thompsons on behalf of the union, exposes an attempt by successive governments to ride roughshod over workers' employment rights and a refusal to recognise the value and importance of maintaining a properly-resourced essential public service.
An employment judge found in favour of two lead claimants who, like thousands of others, had been taken on to help deal with the rise in unemployment after the recession hit in 2008.
Before 2008, Jobcentre Plus (JCP) employed around 200-300 fixed-term staff, but this rocketed to 13,000 by September 2009 after a freeze on recruiting permanent workers.
JCP, part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), had tried to argue that ending a fixed-term contract was not the same as making someone redundant, but the union successfully showed that it was.
When the legal action was initiated it affected more than 3,000 PCS members. But some fixed-term staff have since been made permanent after consistent pressure from the union.
Workloads across the DWP remain high and there are serious staffing shortages. Since May 2010 the department has cut 20,000 staff, a fall of 19 per cent, and the union says these levels should be restored by recruiting new permanent staff and converting the remaining fixed-term staff onto permanent contracts.
Andrew James of Thompsons, who acted for the claimants, said: "I am delighted that the claimants have succeeded in their claims and that they and hundreds of their colleagues will now receive the redundancy compensation payments that they are clearly entitled to. I have always found the DWP's argument that this was not a redundancy situation somewhat difficult to fathom. Thousands of fixed term employees like Ms Fanis and Ms Ricciardi were dismissed by the DWP in order to meet ministerial head count reductions. The DWP's arguments that this did not amount to redundancy flew in the face of both clear legal authority and plain common sense."