Press Association staffers win payout via NUJ after jobs move to France

Two Press Association members of the National Union of Journalists have won payouts after their jobs were transferred to a company in France.

According to the NUJ, deputy team leader Clare Hoppett and listings producer Kath Haigh reached an agreement with the company, PM81, shortly before a full employment tribunal was due to begin.

They were two of nine whose jobs were put at risk in November 2012 when PA lost a TV listings contract with Mirror Group Newspapers to the sub-editing contractor, which is based in Castres.

A number of staff were redeployed within PA, but Hoppett, who was based in Howden, and Haigh, who worked from home, lost their jobs, received no redundancy payments and no payment of notice. They also did not have a "reference to look for a new job", according to the NUJ.

This was after PM81 "refused to accept there had been a business transfer covered by Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) 2006 legislation". 

The NUJ was unable to represent its members in collective consultation meetings because it is not recognised by PA. But the union said Hoppett and Haigh, who had worked at PA for 15 and ten years respectively, "received extensive assistance from the union through the consultation process and then successful detailed legal advice from the NUJ’s solicitors, Thompsons, when it became clear their jobs were to just disappear with no compensation".

According to the NUJ, PA said a business transfer had been made under TUPE, but PM81 "denied this and refused to admit any responsibility for those whose jobs had been taken away". The French company continued to contest this until a preliminary employment tribunal hearing found a business transfer had taken place, the NUJ said.

The union reports that under TUPE employees whose jobs transfer but are not required by the other company are able to claim a redundancy payment.

It said that both members were able to reach agreements without having to pay legal or tribunal costs – saving £250 for making a claim to an employment tribunal, and £950 if the matter had gone to a hearing.

Chris Morley, NUJ northern and Midlands organiser, said: “These were important cases for the union as the type of situation that brought it about could happen at any time to workers at PA and elsewhere if contracts are lost and jobs transfer.

“We will pursue with vigour those employers who would avoid their legal responsibilities and potentially leave our members with nothing when work transfers. 

“The limitations of the law around consultation were also exposed by this example where employees were excluded from collective representation because the union is blocked by not being recognised. I would urge all PA employees to consider this and to join the NUJ if they are not already members.”

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