NIPSA, the largest public sector trade union in Northern Ireland can announce that, following almost three years of protracted negotiations and legal action against The Executive Office (formerly OFMDFM) and the Strategic Investment Board, a substantial six figure settlement has been made with 4 NIPSA members who lodged cases for unfair dismissal by the Derry-Londonderry based regeneration body, ILEX. Alison Millar, NIPSA General Secretary said:
"When the staff of ILEX were advised in October 2015 that the organisation was to close by the end of the financial year and they would lose their jobs, it was a huge shock to them. This came following a review of ILEX, during which its Board had been assured that there would be no surprises when the review report was published.
"At the time, NIPSA argued vehemently that, as some of the work of ILEX was being transferred to The Executive Office and the Strategic Investment Board, its staff should also transfer under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees Regulations (TUPE).
"This was rejected out of hand, the staff lost their jobs and NIPSA was forced into lodging Industrial Tribunal proceedings for our members.
"Without membership of the union, these individuals would not have been in a position to take a legal challenge themselves, so on their behalf, we are very pleased that NIPSA and our brave members have been totally vindicated. While no financial compensation can replace someone's job and the trauma that these unfair dismissals caused, the substantial six figure settlement reached in these cases shows that The Executive Office and the SIB were wrong in dismissing these individuals. As a result, this is money which will now come out of the public purse to compensate the individuals concerned."
John McShane of McCartan Turkington Breen (MTB) Solicitors who represented NIPSA in the landmark case said,
"This action on behalf of NIPSA's members has resulted in one of the largest employment law settlements of its kind in Northern Ireland. Employment law exists for the legal protection of the rights and responsibilities of both the employee and the employer and TUPE Regulations are well-known for providing employee protection when a business changes hands. We are very pleased with the outcome for our clients. This is a stark warning to employers of any size or sector that they should obtain legal advice in relation to their responsibilities to employees, as this case clearly shows that the financial implications of not following the legal protections of TUPE can be very serious indeed."
Tony McMullan the NIPSA Official who represented the members throughout said:
"Our members who worked in ILEX were treated disgracefully. They went through considerable trauma at being made redundant and undeniably, their professional reputations were tarnished by the public speculation and discussion around the future of ILEX. The staff have everything to be proud of in the development of Ebrington and the Fort George site. The iconic Peace Bridge is there for all to see and a unique testament to the work, imagination, commitment and dedication of the staff concerned.
"This substantial settlement is a strong indication that the staff and NIPSA were fully justified in lodging tribunal applications. NIPSA is delighted for our members but of course we wish they had not had to undergo the concern and stress they have faced over the last 3 years."
Employers should be aware that NIPSA will not allow our members to be treated in an unfair and unjust manner and will use the resources of the union to ensure that justice is achieved.