London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) workers have triumphed in their fight to prove that their employers’ refusal to award them a 2.5% pay rise in the year commencing April 2009 breached the terms of a collective bargaining agreement and amounted to an unlawful deduction from wages.
The LFEPA had agreed with trade unions, the GMB and Unison, that its members’ pay would be increased by 2.5% or by 1% above the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC) settlements for the relevant period. After the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, the LFEPA took the second of those two options and awarded staff a 1.575% pay rise.
The workers’ case was dismissed by an employment tribunal on the basis that the wording of the agreement amounted to no more than ‘an agreement to agree’ and was thus not incorporated in their employment contracts. Their case also failed before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which ruled that the LFEPA were not contractually obliged to pay 2.5% or whichever alternative yielded the highest increase.
However, in allowing the workers’ appeal and overturning the EAT’s decision, the court ruled that, on a proper construction of the agreement, the workers were entitled to a pay increase of 2.5% or NJC plus 1%, whichever was the greater. The court concluded: “Looking at the matter objectively, no other meaning made or would have made industrial sense”.