UK/EUROPE - Private contractors who withheld pensions benefits from ex-NHS (National Health Service) staff will be forced to pay back millions following a landmark ruling in the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The case was brought before the ECJ in March 2000 by UNISON, the UK’s largest union.
The ruling will affect thousands of employees who originally worked in the public sector and who have been made redundant aged over 50 after contracting-out, said UNISON.
The case centred around Katia Beckmann who worked for 13 years for the North West Regional Health Authority as a principal architect. She was transferred to private contractors Dynamco Whicheloe MacFarlane in 1995 and made redundant 2 years later. Dynamco refused to pay-up under the terms of the NHS pension scheme which allows for an immediate pay-out of an enhanced pension following redundancy.
Commenting Bob Abberley, UNISON assistant general secretary said: “Private contractors will have to think again about bidding for services and then making workers redundant to cut costs and boost profits.”
He added: “Everywhere we see pension entitlements being undermined, but this landmark decision is a significant victory and will help secure the future pension rights of thousands of workers.”
The hearing was held in Luxembourg in November 2001 and hinged on the EU Acquired Rights Directive, which protects workers’ rights in the event of transfer or contracting out.
The Directive safeguards redundancy payments, but not old age, invalidity or survivors’ benefits under occupational pension schemes. The judgement ruled that the benefits which Mrs Beckmann was claiming were redundancy benefits not “old age” benefits as claimed by Dynamco.
By Madhu Kalia
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