Unite the union has successfully secured more than £17,000 in compensation each for 21 members who were made redundant while working at a power station in Plymouth.

Plymouth Employment Tribunal awarded the money after they were sacked without consultation by Shanahan Engineering Limited in May 2008.

The workers were helping to build the power station for Alstom Power in Langage, Plymouth.

Following an agreement between Shanahan and Alstom there was a change to the working schedule and 46 men were made redundant with immediate effect on May 1, 2008.

Under employment law where more than 20 employees are made redundant workers must be consulted at least 30 days in advance.

Shanahan Engineering told the tribunal that the change to the working schedule was so sudden they had no choice but to lay off the staff straight away.

Failure to consult at all was unacceptable

The Tribunal found that Shanahan should have consulted its staff despite the short notice and said the failure to consult at all was unacceptable.

It ordered the firm to pay the maximum award of 90 days pay amounting to £366,773 shared between the Unite members.

David McCulloch, 62, from Plymouth was one of the sacked workers. He said: “We had no idea we were about to made redundant. We turned up for a normal day at work only to have the carpet ripped out from under us.”

Jerry Pickford south west regional officer at Unite said: “These men were engaged in work which they had been told would last until at least August, but one day they turned up for work only to discover they were out of a job. It is unacceptable that management didn’t consult their employees first. This decision should come as a warning to all employers to make sure they think through their redundancy process carefully before making any rash decisions.”

Rebecca Spence from Thompsons Solicitors added: “The maximum award of 90 days pay for the Unite members was the best outcome they could have got. The employer argued it could not consult with its employees due to special circumstances, but the amount the tribunal has awarded indicates that this argument was entirely rejected.”