GMB To Appeal Allen (Middlesborough) Case To House Of Lords….

21 Jul 2008

GMB TO APPEAL ALLEN (MIDDLESBROUGH) CASE TO HOUSE OF LORDS TO ESTABLISH CLARITY ON HOW TO BALANCE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS WHEN REACHING EQUAL PAY AGREEMENTS

Whilst welcoming the Court of Appeal’s acceptance of unions’ general approach to equal pay negotiations, GMB is disappointed in the Court’s assessment of how the job was carried out in Middlesbrough.  The Court of Appeal has overturned the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s earlier view that the Union’s actions were objectively justified and therefore did not amount to unlawful indirect discrimination.

GMB is today studying a Court of Appeal judgement regarding an equal pay agreement in April 2005 covering staff employed by Middlesbrough Borough Council. This agreement has already been the subject of decisions at the Employment Tribunal in June 2006 and the Employment Appeal Tribunal in July 2007 and is now the subject of today’s Court of Appeal judgement.

Direct discrimination claims and victimisation findings against the GMB by the 26 claimants had been rejected at earlier stages in this long running case and were not challenged at the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal has overturned the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s earlier view that the Union’s actions were objectively justified and therefore did not amount to unlawful discrimination.

The Court of Appeal’s judgement emphasises the unique circumstances of this case.  It appears to GMB that the Court of Appeal is saying that the GMBs policy of a balanced approach is legitimate including compromise offers for backpay but the way the Union went about striking the balance between collective bargaining and individual rights in this particular case was not correct.
This assessment would leave unions and employers negotiating the introduction of equal pay unclear about the correct way to strike the balance and so the Union is seeking an appeal to the House of Lords to try to establish absolute clarity in the public interest.

Commenting on the Court of Appeal’s decision GMB National Secretary Brian Strutton said “The Court of Appeal has rightly emphasised the unique circumstances of this case. It had earlier been established at Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal that GMB had not directly discriminated or victimised these 26 women claimants in Middlesbrough. These rulings have not been challenged. However the Court of Appeal has overturned the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s earlier view that the Union’s actions were objectively justified and therefore did not amount to unlawful indirect discrimination.  The Court of Appeal has found that the way the Union went about getting the balance right between conflicting collective needs and individual rights was not correct. So we are seeking an appeal to the House of Lords to get absolute clarity on precisely what is the correct way to go about achieving this balance.”

“There are around 40 other cases of the Allen type that have been stayed or sisted and we expect this to continue while we seek an appeal.”

“GMBs main worry is that this decision could stop progress on equal pay. At it’s earlier stages this case had been used as an excuse for some employers to ‘freeze’ negotiations on equal pay through fear of ending up in court just as we have done. There is a real danger of that freeze happening again.”

“GMBs approach to Single Status (equal pay) negotiations will not be affected. GMBs policy remains to have equal pay claims prepared and to litigate if negotiations fail to produce an acceptable result for GMB members. GMB believes that this is the best strategy for achieving equal pay in local government.”

“GMB is rightly proud of it’s record on equal pay. GMB backed the first ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ case, that of Julie Hayward against Cammel Laird, and remains at the forefront of today’s fight for equal pay with over 30,000 cases currently being pursued for women working in local government by the Union.”
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