City staff denied Woolies pay-out

Kevin Brown says he missed out on �2500

Kevin Brown says he missed out on �2500

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FORMER staff at a city Woolworth’s store are missing out on thousands of pounds in compensation awarded to other ex-employees after the famous high street chain folded.

More than 24,000 former Woolies workers across the UK are to receive compensation totalling £67.8 million after an employment tribunal found administrators had failed in their legal obligations to consult shopworkers’ union Usdaw over redundancies.

But because the law only requires consultation in cases where there are more than 20 staff, the tribunal said no payments were due to employees in smaller Woolworth’s stores, including the one in Stockbridge, which had ten staff.

Kevin Brown, former manager of the Stockbridge branch, is among those denied compensation.

He was transferred to Stockbridge as manager just five months before the company collapsed in 2008, having spent nine years working at Woolies in Lothian Road, where he was assistant manager.

He said if he had still been working there he would have qualified for the compensation of 60 days’ pay. Apart from Stockbridge, all the other Woolworth’s in Edinburgh – Lothian Road, Leith, Corstorphine and the Big W in Milton Road – had more than 20 staff.

Mr Brown, 33, said he would have been in line for about £2500 if smaller stores were included in the compensation ruling.

He and partner Emma Grant, 25, who had a baby last year, are planning to get married soon. “The extra cash would have come in handy,” he said.

Mr Brown joined Woolworth’s at 16 after leaving Broughton High School and worked first in the Stockbridge store before moving to Lothian Road and eventually returning to Stockbridge as manager.

He said: “We worked just as hard as the staff in the other shops. You could argue it’s more challenging being in a smaller store because there’s more work to do and sometimes we have to go and help in the other shops.

“The compensation should be given to everyone who worked for Woolworth’s.”

Usdaw is expected to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal in a bid to secure compensation for all Woolies workers. It will argue that the rule on 20 staff is intended to apply to small firms, not large companies making employees redundant at lots of different sites.

Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz said: “This is a matter of simple justice. Staff at Stockbridge won’t qualify even though they may have worked for Woolworths longer than someone at a larger store. All the staff worked for the same company and worked just as hard but are being treated differently.

“I will be pressing the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to take action to close the loophole.”