Unite members at INEOS refinery in Grangemouth have won a collective bargaining rights case.
Unite members working at the INEOS refinery at Grangemouth have won a legal battle that strengthens collective bargaining rights and will prevent employers bypassing unions to impose pay deals on employees.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ordered global chemical firm, INEOS, to pay compensation to more than 20 Unite members employed at its Grangemouth site of £3,830 each, after it tried to impose a 2.8 per cent pay award on them in 2017. Their union, Unite, had previously rejected the offer.
This latest ruling strengthens the law on ‘unlawful inducements’ to surrender trade union rights. It builds on the ground-breaking Kostal UK Ltd v Dunkley and ors case, which Thompsons successfully won alongside Unite the Union last year.
Neil Todd, trade union specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This is a key victory not only for the Unite members involved, but for all workers in trade unions across the UK.
“The right of a recognised trade union to collectively bargain on behalf of its members is fundamental to workers’ rights and this judgment makes clear that it should be respected by employers.
“Along with the Kostal case, a spotlight is finally being thrown by the courts on trade union bargaining rights and it’s not looking good for employers who think they can ignore trade unions when they choose”
The Unite members argued that imposing the pay increase outside the collective bargaining process amounted to an unlawful inducement to give up collective bargaining rights.
Documents disclosed during the legal proceedings revealed a member of the firm’s senior leadership team had suggested the company needed to “engineer a way to get rid of Unite and replace them with a different representative body” after its members refused to vote in favour of the proposed offer.
The initial tribunal in 2018 ruled in favour of the workers, but INEOS appealed the judgment and that appeal was subsequently delayed pending the outcome of the related Kostal UK Ltd v Dunkley and ors case, which had progressed to the Supreme Court.
The Kostal case saw Unite members, again represented by Thompsons Solicitors, successfully take legal action against their Rotherham-based employer for trying to bypass union pay negotiations. This was a ground-breaking case, billed at the time as the most important trade union rights case in over a decade – and the first case in the UK’s highest court on trade union bargaining rights.
This victory sends a clear message to employers. One, you won’t get away with issuing statements of intent to vary an employee’s pay and deem that offer accepted if the employee continues to work. And two, you can’t simply declare something to be “a final offer” to suggest collective bargaining is exhausted and then bypass the recognised trade union to make direct approaches to workers.
Neil Todd, our trade union specialist
Mr Todd said: “This victory sends a clear message to employers. One, you won’t get away with issuing statements of intent to vary an employee’s pay and deem that offer accepted if the employee continues to work. And two, you can’t simply declare something to be “a final offer” to suggest collective bargaining is exhausted and then bypass the recognised trade union to make direct approaches to workers.
“We are delighted to build on our ground-breaking Kostal case. Both cases make clear the central role trade unions play in the workplace and should give comfort to union members up and down the country.”
Unite says that the long-anticipated Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) judgment has huge ramifications for workers everywhere.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “This is an important legal victory for Unite and the wider trade union movement. Employers everywhere should take note. Unite the union will use every tool at its disposal to defend collective bargaining and will not tolerate employers like INEOS trying to bypass their obligations to negotiate.”