115 former employees at 10 care homes owned by Excelcare in Essex have won nearly £1m in compensation for unfair dismissal.
Excelcare acquired the care homes from Essex County Council in 2005 for less than £50,000 each.
After the transfer, it claimed the running costs for the homes were higher than the council had led them to believe, which meant they had to impose new contracts on workers or the homes would have to close.
115 care workers, based in homes in Benfleet, Colchester, Dovercourt, Brentwood, Maldon and Chelmsford, refused to accept pay cuts of up to 40% and other changes to their working conditions and were consequently dismissed.
The workers, all members of either the GMB or Unison, consulted union officials and decided to commence legal action against their former employer.
After negotiations, the parties agreed to settle the case. Payouts, approved by the tribunal judge, range from around £1,000 to more than £30,000 and total £983,000.
Some of the care workers agreed to accept new contracts, but even they will be entitled to compensation as a result of the settlement.
Anne Vinden, regional head of local government at Unison, said: "We're absolutely delighted we have managed to get this compensation for members.
"I feel very pleased on behalf of this group, because they are low-paid members who work incredibly hard and do an absolutely vital job for society.
"I think they deserve to be treated legally and properly and this is what we have achieved."
Michael Ainsley, from GMB, said: "Although GMB is pleased the case is settled we will continue to monitor Excelcare wherever they turn up next to ensure they can never do the same to more care workers.
"If these workers had not been trade union members with union power and funding behind them they would not have got justice."
Denise Yapp, 60, was among the workers awarded money for being unfairly dismissed. She said:
"It took four and a half years of my life and many of my colleagues suffered a great deal.
"I had people in tears. Some even lost their homes because they couldn't afford to pay the mortgage.
"It was obvious [Excelcare's] business plan was just to get rid of many of the staff as possible."
[Note: When we initially ran this post we quoted the Press Association and the Essex Echo, which reported that a settlement was agreed following an employment tribunal hearing in Bury St Edmunds. We've since received notification from one of the parties that, in fact, there was no hearing. We've since corrected this post to reflect this new information.]
- Care home workers' £1m compensation (Essex Echo)
- Employment protection during business takeovers and transfers (FindLaw.co.uk)
- Unfair dismissal (FindLaw.co.uk)
- Employment law news (The Solicitor)
- Find an employment law solicitor (Contact Law)