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Council must compensate workers asked to ‘sign away their rights’

A tribunal has ordered Bromley Council in south-east London to pay more than £64,000 in compensation to 18 of its staff who were offered cash incentives to sign new contracts that would have taken them out of existing collective bargaining agreements.

One letter written by the council offered £200 to staff who signed new employment contracts which included a localised pay award, instead of a national or regional collective agreement.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The decision is a significant victory for our members at Bromley Council who were effectively coerced into signing away their employment rights. It should send a strong signal to other local authorities that they cannot simply withdraw from collective bargaining by going behind the union’s back and making these types of offers.”

The union said the case was brought by 18 of its members who did not sign the new contract, some of whom were ultimately dismissed and re-engaged on new terms of employment that included localised pay negotiations. The members are now set to receive £3,600 each.  

Unison said: “Employers are prohibited from making offers to union members that have the purpose of changing their contracts so that their terms and conditions of employment are no longer determined by collective agreement.”

When the plans were revealed in early 2013, the Unite and Unison unions called it an £800,000 bribe.

Bromley Council leader Cllr Stephen Carr said then: “We firmly believe moving to a local scheme for determining terms and conditions is the right way forward for the council and for our staff. It will improve our ability to recruit and retain the right staff, and reward committed, hard working, exceptional performers through challenging times. When renegotiating contracts it is a recognised practice to offer a facilitation payment – in this case it is funded from one-off money set aside in previous budgets to cover staffing costs.”

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