Refuse workers win ‘landmark victory’ against Veolia in overtime pay case

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has hailed an employment tribunal ruling last week over the failure of Veolia Environmental Services to incorporate overtime pay into annual holiday pay for its refuse workers as a ‘landmark victory’.

Refuse workers win ‘landmark victory’ against Veolia in overtime pay case
The case pertained to workers in the London Boroughs of Camden and Bromley
Veolia, the French-owned waste management firm, cited ‘legal uncertainty’ caused by Brexit as the reason for its oversight.

The ruling from the Watford employment tribunal covers contracts for Bromley and Camden councils, but Unite says that it will also have implications for the thousands of Unite members working for Veolia on waste contracts across the UK.

Employment Judge Skehan ruled that voluntary overtime worked on test cases pursued by Unite Legal Services should be part of members’ normal pay, due to the innate link between the work carried out on overtime and their role, and the fact it was performed with sufficient regularity to constitute part of normal pay.

Despite putting Brexit forward as the reason for not incorporating overtime pay into holiday pay, Veolia did not offer any legal arguments supporting this ‘spurious’ contention, according to Unite.

As such, voluntary overtime must now be included in the first 20 days of a successful claimants holiday pay and contractually guaranteed overtime must be included in the first 28 days, according to EU and UK law respectively.

Commenting on the ruling, Unite’s 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.”

Although the ruling from the Watford employment tribunal is limited to Veolia contracts for Bromley and Camden councils, Unite said there were over a hundred other employment tribunals being handled by Unite Legal Services for workers on other Veolia contracts.

The union stated that the victory will ‘act as a boost’ for those members seeking to take action over pay issues in other parts of the UK and should serve as a wake up call for Veolia on the matter.

Commenting on the tribunal, a Veolia spokesperson said: “We’ve been monitoring the holiday pay case law very carefully over recent years. These claims are determined on the employees’ individual circumstances as has been evidenced by the fact that not all claimants succeeded in this case. When written judgement is available we will examine our position further and continue to be in dialogue with Unite. We remain committed to complying with all of our legal obligations toward our employees.”