THE FIGHT to secure compensation for former Ethel Austin and Woolworths staff denied payment when the companies collapsed into administration, has taken another step forward thanks to the shopworkers’ union Usdaw.
Usdaw won compensation worth nearly £70 million for 25,000 former employees of both companies, but around 1,200 former employees of Ethel Austin and 3,000 former employees of Woolworths were denied compensation because they worked in stores with fewer than 20 staff.
The decisions to deny compensation to staff who worked in smaller shops are based on the current interpretation of UK law, but at the time they were greeted with outrage by former employees, customers, politicians and sections of the media.
Usdaw pledged to fight the clear injustice of the decisions and on Thursday the chairman of the Employment Appeal Tribunal granted Usdaw leave to move to a full hearing on the basis that the union did have an arguable case. The hearing is likely to take place in the spring of next year.
John Gorle, Usdaw national officer said he was “absolutely delighted” with the decision.
He stated: “Although there is still some way to go, the fight to correct the clear injustice of denying compensation to staff purely on the basis of the size of shop they worked in has now overcome a major hurdle.
“Whatever the current interpretation of the law, it has always been a nonsense to suggest that staff in smaller shops were not part of the same collective redundancy situation as their colleagues in larger stores.
“While our focus is on achieving a just settlement for our members formerly employed by Ethel Austin and Woolworths, this case could have far reaching implications for all workers facing redundancy, whether in the retail sector or wider economy.”