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John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Refuse workers win overtime pay case against Veolia

Refuse workers win overtime pay case against Veolia


Waste management firm claimed 'Brexit legal uncertainty' behind non-payment

An employment tribunal ruling will have implications for several thousand refuse workers at Veolia Environmental Services, after the French-owned firm cited 'Brexit legal uncertainty' as the reason for failing to incorporate overtime pay into its staff annual holiday pay.

The country's largest union, Unite, hailed the recent tribunal ruling as a 'landmark victory' for its members and criticised the 'spurious' defence put forward by the waste management company, which has refuse contracts across the UK.

Ruling in test claims brought by Unite Legal Service, Employment Judge Skehan, sitting at Watford' s employment tribunal, found that the voluntary overtime worked in these cases 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 claiming Brexit as the reason for not incorporating overtime pay, the company did not put forward any legal arguments to back up that contention at the two-day hearing.

The result means 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 under UK law for the first 28 days, a point Veolia conceded on day two of the hearing.

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.'

The judgment covers Veolia contracts for Bromley and Camden councils. However, Unite said there are over one hundred more claims pending in other tribunals against Veolia.

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 the 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.'

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor of Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD