Council loses pay dispute tribunal case

The Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

A dozen union members have won an employment tribunal against Brighton and Hove City Council over ‘unlawful deductions from wages’.

And the council will now be forced to pay back what it owes to workers who had their pay cut.

The 12 GMB members worked for the Royal Pavilion and Museums information and security team in 2013, when a reorganisation of the team led to cuts to enhanced pay and loss of shift allowances.

The union said the workers’ pay was not to be reduced during a four-year pay protection period, which was stated to be from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017.

However, in May 2016, the council stated that the reference to 31 March 2017 was a clerical error, that pay protection was limited to three years. The enhanced pay was stopped without warning, the union said.

Following a hearing in January this year, the employment tribunal sitting in Brighton upheld the employees’ claims and held that the contractual period was absolutely clear and that the protected pay period was expressed simply to be from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017.

The tribunal further held that the employees were entitled to assume that the formal documentation issued by the council as their employer was correct.

The tribunal ruled that the failure to pay the employees the protected pay was an unlawful deduction from wages and the council must now pay the employees what they were owed.

Nicholas Kay, one of the affected employees who acted as lead claimant on behalf of all 12, said: “The other employees and I are all very pleased with the outcome of this case. I would like to thank GMB because none of this would have happened without their support.”

Gary Palmer, organiser of GMB Southern Region, said: “The reality of this case is that these workers are already on a low wage and struggling to make ends meet and further cuts to terms and conditions can have devastating consequences. A court case involving 12 employees against a Council is no little matter but GMB will always seek to protect members’ interests in the workplace and this case shows the importance of being a member of GMB.”

Charles Harrity, senior organiser of GMB Southern Region, said: “This is a shocking example of the council’s austerity drive. Time and time again we are seeing that it is the low paid workers who are being targeted. On the one hand the council says that it has no money to provide fair terms and conditions for employees and yet, as this case shows, the council will not hesitate to spend thousands in legal fees in trying to justify its actions.”

Brighton and Hove City Council has been approached for comment.