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Sacked council staff say: politics should have been kept out of it

Letter from former council staff to the Comet in an effect to correct disinformation circulated by HELP councillors.

Sir — We write to correct misinformation about the recent tribunal.
  Despite reports, the case was not about redundancy pay. In November 2009, five months after taking over the council, HELP Chairman George Ritchie recommended redundancy pay, telling the council payments were less than 1/3rd of the maximum they could pay and were less than £75,000 in total. The council agreed to his recommendation and we accepted it.
  The case was about a temporary promise to give us 12 months notice - not notice pay. HELP were elected in June 2009 but claimed they could ignore the clause because the previous administration was “irrational”.
  HELP sought to keep us in post by promising (twice) that if we stayed to work for them until they decided to make us redundant they would give us a loyalty bonus of 3 months.
  Eventually, after we had worked for them for 5 months they gave us 3 months notice but withheld the bonus until we signed a compromise agreement. By law, when an employer imposes a compromise agreement an independent solicitor has to be brought in to give staff advice.

  The solicitor said the agreement contained unreasonable demands. The tribunal records she “strongly advised” us not to sign it. HELP did not amend it, refused arbitration and refused ACAS.
  The stalemate meant HELP kept the loyalty bonus from us. Mr Lovett says we reneged on the agreemnt. It is a fairy story. The Tribunal found there was a “clear implication” on the part of HELP to impose “unreasonable terms” in the compromise agreement. The words “clear implication” are significant.
  If HELP had amended the agreement the bonus payments would have been less than £26,000. Mr Lovett says they now face a bill of £80,000 plus their legal costs.
  We said all along it was a simple employment dispute that should have been settled out of court 18 months ago. HELP should take responsibility for their own actions.
  Politics should not have been brought into it.

Mrs S Lewis, former staff member and staff representative for former Letchworth Town Council staff; N Franzen-Ashwood; P Nevins; C Ranasingha; M Mikiel;  M Dawson.

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