Sacked workers win £964,537 – offered 40% wage cuts by Excelcare

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Domestic workers demanding a living wage on this year’s May Day march through London
Domestic workers demanding a living wage on this year’s May Day march through London

More than 100 care staff have received £964,537, after Excelcare sacked them and offered them new contracts with a 40 per cent pay cut, it emerged yesterday.

Public sector union Unison took on the women workers’ case after they were transferred to ExcelCare, when Essex County Council privatised their care homes.

Excelcare claimed that it had to put in place new contracts for the staff, or close the homes, as the council had failed to give them the full running costs of the transfer. The new contract included worse conditions and a 40 per cent pay cut – a breach of the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (TUPE) that protect pay and conditons.

Seventy-one UNISON members and 46 GMB members won settlements ranging from £1000 to more than £30,000, at the Bury-St-Edmonds employment tribunal on Tuesday.

In a separate development, the Fire Brigades Union and Thompsons Solicitors have secured a ground breaking victory for firefighter Christopher Bennett after he was sacked for sending an e-mail to colleagues about the fire service’s insistence that he use a chair that was injuring his back on nightshifts at work.

The Tribunal found that his right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act had been breached and that his dismissal was unfair.

Christopher Bennett who suffered back problems had over 25 years service with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA). He sent an e-mail in February 2008 to colleagues referring to an article which appeared in the Manchester Evening News on 29 November 2007, headlined ‘Firefighters sue brigade after hurting backs on station chairs’.

In 2007, Bennett had asked the authority to make reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act by permitting him to use his own rest mattress, as an alternative ‘horizontal’ form of resting during nightshifts.

Bennett’s request to use his own mattress had been refused and he was told only to use the rest facility provided by GMFRA or rest on the benches in the snooker room.

After a seven- day hearing in June and September 2009, the Tribunal found that the e-mail was of political and public interest, in that firefighters should be alert and fit to go about their business of fighting fires and effecting rescues.

The Tribunal went on to find that Bennett was seeking in his own way to protect public safety.

Thompsons secured an out-of-court settlement of £80,000, more than the statutory cap for these types of cases.