The High Court in Newcastle demanded Northumbrian Water pay a former Hexham-based water inspector, more than £6,600 in compensation after his overtime was cut.

His union, the GMB and their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors represented the claimant, who now works for a different company and wishes to remain anonymous.

He argued he was entitled to the compensation after Northumbrian Water withdrew his overtime working at weekends in May 2004.

At the time Northumbrian Water paid the employee six months compensation, around £800, for the reduction in wage.

But the honourable Justice Wilkie one of the most senior High Court judges said he should have received two and a half years worth of compensation after referring to rules in the company’s handbook.

The test case means seven other water inspectors, based in Hexham, who also had their overtime reduced and were paid the wrong compensation can now receive their full entitlement, expected to be worth thousands of pounds each.

It could also mean scores of other water inspectors employed by Northumbrian Water across the country could make a claim for more compensation where they feel the company rule book has not been abided by when their working hours were changed.

The claimant said: “We have been fighting for three years to get justice and I now feel overjoyed and vindicated.

“My former colleagues are now free to receive the payments they should have received back in 2004.

“I am very grateful to the GMB and Thompsons Solicitors who were brilliant and backed me all the way.”

GMB regional organiser, Tom Ross said: “This is a fantastic result for our members who should never have had to take this case to court.

”It shows how we need to be vigilant to ensure our members always receive a fair deal from their employers.”

Thompsons Solicitors client representative Deborah Henning added: “This is a significant legal decision which compensates our client adequately for the work he has lost. It also paves the way for other water inspectors who may be affected to make a claim for more compensation.”