In July, Greencore "strongly” refuted any suggestion that it had “contravened employment law"

In July, Greencore "strongly” refuted any suggestion that it had “contravened employment law"

Irish convenience food group Greencore has lost an employment tribunal, which has awarded workers in the UK up to GBP1.2m (US$1.9m) in compensation.

UK union Unite said it had won a tribunal on behalf of 400 employees in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The dispute dates back to 2010, at which time the workers agreed to temporarily suspend premium pay rates and enhanced holiday pay rates from June that year to October 2011 in order to "help the company during difficult trading conditions".

However, the union said Greencore "refused to revert back to the workers' original terms of employment after the deadline had past".

As a result, the workers raised a group action for "the unlawful deduction of wages", accusing Greencore of "impoverishing its workers by refusing to reinstate the payments when the majority were on the national minimum wage".

In July, Greencore "strongly" refuted any suggestion it had "contravened employment law at any stage during the course of this process".

Unite national officer Jennie Formby said it was "great news" Greencore workers had "got justice".

"This situation could have been avoided, if Greencore had listened to the union and adhered to some basic ethical principles," Formby said.

"Unite was not going to allow Greencore to break the law, attack union rights and the terms and conditions of the lowest paid workers in society. Many of these workers had to survive on poverty wages since management changed the terms, then broke their promise even though the Greencore Group is extremely profitable."

Formby, however, said its members are now discussing steps to "restore fairness to the contracts of employment that were unilaterally and unfairly changed by Greencore after Unite pledged to mount this legal challenge".

Greencore did not return a request for comment at the time of going to press.