£500k pay out to 130 former Norwich Fountains workers

Flashback to when the Fountains workers were told they were being laid off with immediate effect. Ph

Flashback to when the Fountains workers were told they were being laid off with immediate effect. Photo by Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant Norfolk

More than 100 Norwich workers who lost their jobs when council contractor Fountains went into administration have won a settlement worth almost £500,000.

Trade union UCATT won the money on behalf of 130 members who were employed by the company to do street cleaning, parks and garden maintenance and grave digging for Norwich City Council.

The workers were made redundant in January 2012 and UCATT made a claim to an employment tribunal because the workers were given no warning.

Union leaders last month won a judgement which awarded the workers the maximum 90 day award (12 weeks) for the failure of the company to consult the workforce.

UCATT has now made an application to the Redundancy Payments Office, which means the workers will be paid the first eight weeks of the award. The affected workers were earning on average £320 a week.

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Brian Rye, regional secretary of UCATT's Eastern Region, said: 'This is a significant achievement. Our members were treated absolutely disgracefully when they were jettisoned without warning. This verdict provides some justice.'

Fountains Group, based in Mile Cross, had a £4.6m a year contract with the city council to clean streets and maintain parks, plus a £3.3m a year contract to collect rubbish.

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While administrator BDO sold a number of similar Fountains contracts to OCS Group, the Norwich contracts were not snapped up.

After the workers were made redundant, UCATT worked closely with Norwich City Council to ensure that the affected workers were given the opportunity of getting their previous jobs back under a new contract.

The council gave the contract to Biffa for a year, while the contract was fully re-tendered. Since April the workers have been employed by Norwich-Norse.

Mr Rye said: 'This long running saga is now reaching a conclusion. It demonstrates how if workers and their union are totally determined it is entirely possible to achieve a fair outcome.'

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