Woolworth workers wait

Employees at the former Woolworth store in Bellshill will find out next week if they have won their cash fight.

Employees at the former Woolworth store in Bellshill will find out next week if they have won their cash fight.

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Former workers at the Woolworth store in Bellshill will finally find out next week if they are due extra redundancy compensation.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will give their final verdict next Thursday, April 30, on trade union Usdaw’s case for Woolworths and Ethel Austin members in stores of less than 20 employees to be included in the protective awards against both companies.

Employees at the Main Street store have been denied payments - which could amount to four-figure sums - because the store had less than 20 of a staff when it closed in 2008.

In May 2013 shop workers’ union Usdaw won a landmark legal ruling at the Employment Appeal Tribunal against a legal interpretation which had excluded workers at smaller stores, including Bellshill, from a compensation scheme.

But they still received no cash because the Government appealed against the tribunal’s decision.

That appeal was heard in November at the Court of Justice, but an initial opinion issued by the court in February rejected Usdaw’s case.

However union general secretary John Hannett believes Advocates General Nils Wahl was mistaken not to take account of the internal structure of the companies, or considered mass insolvency situations, when giving his opinion.

He said: “Our case is morally and logically robust. It is unfair and makes no sense that workers in stores of less than 20 employees were denied compensation, whereas their colleagues in larger stores did qualify for the award.

“These were mass redundancy situations where one central decision was made to close the whole company down, with no individual analysis of the viability of each store on a case-by-case basis.

“The companies have already been shown to have operated illegally by failing to consult about the redundancies with the workforce and their trade union Usdaw. A protective award was made by an employment tribunal and workers in stores of over 20 staff were paid years ago. Justice for the staff in stores of less than 20 employees is long overdue.”

Staff at the larger Motherwell store did qualify for the payment.