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Former Newbury Woolworths staff in line for compensation?

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Redundancy pay could be coming to staff three years after they were laid off after tribunal favours shopworkers union

FORMER employees of Woolworths in Newbury may be in line for a surprise windfall after shopworkers' union Usdaw won £67.8m for those who were made redundant three years ago.

In a judgement yesterday (Monday), an employment tribunal in London found that administrators had failed in their legal obligations to consult the shopworkers' union Usdaw and awarded its members compensation for 60 days pay, capped at £330 per week.

Only staff working in larger stores, where 20 or more redundancies were made, such as the Newbury store, are set to be compensated. This means around 3,000 employees who worked in around 180 of the 814 stores may never receive compensation.

The Northbrook Street store in Newbury, which had existed for almost 90 years, was staffed by 56 people when it closed on December 30, 2008.

The iconic high street retailer had gone into administration on November 27, 2008, and was flooded with customers shortly before it closed, with people even buying up the fixtures and fittings of the store which has now been replaced by Wilkinson.

Nearly 30,000 people across the country lost their jobs during the Woolworths closures.

Usdaw national officer John Gorgle said: “While the award is never going to fully compensate people for losing their jobs, I'm sure our members will welcome the money and appreciate the effort Usdaw has made to secure the compensation for them. Cases like this once again demonstrate the immense value of belonging to a trade union.

“However, I'm once again bitterly disappointed that a tribunal has limited the scope of the award. The fact that some of our members won't be compensated simply because their store had less than 20 employees is just plain wrong and shows the gaping loophole and injustice of the current legislation. Nearly 30,000 employees were made redundant from Woolworths at the same time and for the same reason, so to suggest 3,000 of them didn't constitute a collective redundancy is a nonsense.”

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett echoed his views: “My delight at the award for the vast majority of our members is tempered by the clear injustice that workers in smaller stores could miss out.

“Usdaw thinks that the UK's current interpretation of the law on collective redundancies is both unfair and possibly a breach of the European Directive which seeks to protect workers in large scale redundancy situations.”

“We are taking further expert legal advice and it is highly likely we will appeal against this part of the judgment.”

If you were employed at the Woolworths store in Newbury and made redundant when the store's closure was announced, please contact the Eddie van der Walt at Newbury Weekly News on (01635) 564601 or email eddie.vanderwalt@newburynews.co.uk to tell us what you think of the latest developments.

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