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Victory at last as workers win £125,000

Monday, February 5, 2024

A public sector contractor has finally paid £125,000 owed to GMB Scotland members after years of legal action and months of mounting pressure.

The union had called for McTear Contracts' work with local government and housing associations to be frozen until it paid the money due to nine kitchen fitters claiming the company failed to meet new Scottish Government rules for public sector contractors.

The Wishaw-based firm lost a six-year legal battle with the union last May but had refused to pay up despite months of false assurances and broken promises.

Keiron McTear, managing director of the firm, which made profits of £1.1million last year, had most recently promised to pay the money by the end of January but after, again, failing to keep his word, GMB Scotland promised to stage a series of rallies at the firm’s offices and work sites.

One kitchen fitter said he was delighted at receiving his money at last and said it was only because he was a member of GMB Scotland.

He told The Sunday Post: “It’s a huge relief to finally have the money in.

“My name will never be on their books again. I’ll never work with them again and just feel sorry for the guys who do work with them.

“I think the only reason we got this far is because we’re all union members.”

The workers were owed the money under TUPE legislation guaranteeing the same terms and conditions if jobs are transferred to a new business. They had been employed by Amey to fit kitchens in social housing in North Lanarkshire before the contract was divided between two new firms, including McTear, in 2017.

Neither company agreed to take the workers on but after a landmark legal action, an employment tribunal ruled the workers should have been transferred automatically under the same terms. McTear finally agreed to settle the dispute last May and pay £125,000 compensation after talks at Acas, the arbitration service.

Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland secretary, said McTear Contracts had been shamed into action after months of delays and false assurances that payment was imminent.

She said: “It is almost seven years since our members were forced into legal action to secure money they should have been paid immediately and ten months since this company finally agreed to pay them.

“It is regrettable that it took so long for these men to be paid while being forced to endure years of legal process and, more recently, months of broken promises that these payments were imminent.”

She said the Scottish Government’s Fair Work First guidelines are intended to set new standards for industrial relations in the public sector and ensure employers and contractors give staff respect and an effective voice.

She said: “Given the needless delays and serial excuses offered by McTeer over years and months, we continue to have concerns about whether this company meets the demands placed on public sector contractors by Fair Work First.” 

Scottish Labour had also voiced concern at the company’s actions.

Mark Griffin MSP, the party’s local government spokesman, had questioned if the contractor is in breach of Fair Work rules introduced this summer.

He said: “The Fair Work policies are intended to ensure employers and contractors across Scotland’s public services treat staff with fairness and respect.

“That would not seem to be the case here and I will be writing to ministers to ask for the clearest possible guidance and confirmation that companies must commit to the same standards as public sector bodies before securing contracts.”