Unison wins legal pay case against London Fire Brigade

Trade union Unison has won a pay-related legal case in the Court of Appeal, which could affect around 800 London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) employees.

The union was challenging the LFEPA’s decision not to honour the third year of a pay deal that would have given fire and rescue staff a 2.5% pay rise in April 2009. The claim could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds because the increase is payable for four years after April 2009.

In the case, Anderson and others and Phillips and others versus London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, the LFEPA tried to use the wording of the initial industrial agreement to defend its decision not to award the pay rise.

A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade said: “The disagreement stemmed from the Fire Authority’s interpretation of the pay formula for the year 2009, which differed from the union’s interpretation. There was no deliberate attempt to deny people any part of their wages; it was a difference of interpretation.”

Timothy Wetherell, a legal officer at Unison, said: “When issues can be resolved between employers and unions about pay, it is worth the employer settling these matters without going through a lengthy litigious process because the detriment to the employer can be far greater if it doesn’t win.

“Also, an overly technical approach to these types of disagreement is not wise. There has to be some leeway given by employers and each party should look to reach a compromise.”