Woolworths staff wait over compensation bid

The former Woolworths store in Stockbridge. Picture: Greg Macvean
The former Woolworths store in Stockbridge. Picture: Greg Macvean
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FORMER staff at a city Woolworths store are facing another delay as they wait to find out whether a compensation bid worth thousands of pounds has been successful.

More than 24,000 former Woolies workers across the UK were awarded compensation totalling £67.8 million in 2012.

An employment tribunal found administrators had failed in their legal obligations to consult shopworkers union USDAW over redundancies when the famous high street chain folded.

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 Woolworths stores, including the one in Stockbridge, which had ten staff.

Stockbridge workers who lost out now face a further wait after a government appeal against their case was referred to the European Court of ­Justice.

Kevin Brown, 34, former manager of the Stockbridge branch, was denied compensation at first but was eventually awarded the money because he was the representative for the Colleagues Circle.

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.

Now working in Greggs, he said: “I still feel the nine other employees were just as entitled and should have been given it too. Just because there weren’t as many staff working in our store, that’s not a good enough reason. It’s not right.

“I still see some of the other staff and thankfully they do have other jobs now.”

Apart from Stockbridge, all the other Woolworths in Edinburgh – Lothian Road, Leith, Corstorphine and the Big W in Milton Road – had more than 20 staff. Staff in smaller stores did not qualify because of a change made in 1992 by the then Conservative government, which brought an end to rules stating employers had to consult with staff before making them redundant when a business had fewer than 20 staff.

Edinburgh North and Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz, who pursued the issue in parliament, said: “Staff from many smaller branches are still being denied compensation five years on even though they were part of the same company as staff in larger stores and may have worked just as hard. The Woolworths workers’ trade union, USDAW, has had to go to tribunals twice to try and win justice, yet although the government didn’t even bother to attend the last tribunal in May it is now appealing against its judgement.

“In my eyes it’s a matter of simple justice – they were part of the same business and should get the same compensation yet the government is still trying to block it.

“I hope the European Court of Justice will settle this once and for all in favour of the staff in branches like Stockbridge.”

About 30,000 people lost their jobs when Woolworths went into administration. Staff eligible for compensation received 60 days’ pay, up to a limit of £330 a week.