Refuse workers win landmark victory in overtime pay case
An Employment Tribunal case that will have implications for thousands of refuse workers on French-owned Veolia contracts across the UK has been hailed a landmark victory by union Unite.
Veolia Environmental Services was accused by Unite of hiding behind Brexit when it failed to incorporate overtime pay into annual holiday pay, citing ‘Brexit legal uncertainty’ as the reason.
Unite said that employment Judge Skehan found that the voluntary overtime worked on test cases pursued by Unite Legal Services was part of members’ normal pay, because there was an intrinsic link between the overtime and their role, and because it was performed with sufficient regularity to be part of normal pay.
Despite Veolia having claimed Brexit as the reason for not incorporating overtime pay, when it came to the hearing the company did not put forward any legal arguments to back up that ‘spurious’ contention.
As a result, voluntary overtime must be included in the calculation of the successful claimants’ holiday pay for the first 20 days of their holiday each year in accordance with EU law.
Contractually guaranteed overtime should also be included for the first 28 days based on long-established UK law, which Unite said Veolia was forced to concede on day two of the hearing.
Unite National Officer for Local Government, Fiona Farmer, said:
“This is a significant landmark case which exposed Veolia’s spurious reasons of Brexit and last year’s referendum for not conforming to European Union law.
“Unite Legal Services took test cases to the Watford Employment Tribunal, which found in our members’ favour – and we will now be seeking a national agreement with Veolia covering all holiday pay issues.
“This judgment will have widespread implications for the several thousand members we have working for Veolia Environmental Services across the UK, who should be getting average holiday pay and could be in line for backdated payments.
“We do question why the company spent more than two years and enormous legal bills fighting this flagrant lack of acknowledgement of EU law.”
The ruling from Watford Employment Tribunal covers Veolia contracts for Bromley and Camden councils.