Veolia Environmental Services has said it remains ‘committed’ to its legal obligations towards employees after an employment tribunal ruled last week (7 June) that the company should pay overtime to some waste and refuse workers.
Veolia noted that not all claimants succeeded in their cases. Full details of the tribunal ruling are yet to be published.
The tribunal followed claims by trade union Unite, that Veolia was ‘hiding behind Brexit’ for its failure to incorporate overtime pay into annual holiday pay, citing ‘Brexit legal uncertainty’.
According to Unite, employment Judge Skehan found that 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.
Unite said despite Veolia having claimed Brexit as the reason for not incorporating overtime pay, at the hearing the company did not put forward any legal arguments.
As a result, voluntary overtime must be included in the calculation of holiday pay for the first 20 days of holiday each year in accordance with EU law, Unite said.
According to the Union’s interpretation of the ruling, 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.
Following the hearing, Unite hailed the ruling as a ‘landmark victory’ which would have implications for the union’s several thousand members working on Veolia’s council waste and refuse contracts across the UK.
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.
“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.
Ms Farmer said the judgement will have ‘widespread implications’ for several thousand of its members working for Veolia, who 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,” Ms Farmer added.
In response to the ruling, 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.”
According to Unite, the ruling from Watford employment tribunal also covers Veolia contracts for Bromley and Camden councils.
Unite said there are over a hundred more employment tribunal cases being handled by Unite Legal Services in different tribunals for members on other Veolia contracts.
And, the trade union warned “there are thousands more claims that can and will be lodged, if Veolia does not wake up and work with the union to resolve all members’ holiday pay issues.”