Unite wins tribunal ruling over Tolent

Tolent has lost a tribunal case after it failed to consult Unite before making hundreds of redundancies when it entered administration last year.

Unite was a recognised trade union for skilled, unskilled and craft employees of Tolent, the £200m-turnover contractor based in Gateshead that collapsed in February 2023 following difficulties with inflation and a loss-making contract to build Milburngate hotel in Durham.

However, the UK’s second-largest union was not consulted before the company made more than 300 redundancies that included Unite members based at three Tolent sites: Wilton International, Colton in Leeds and Team Valley in Gateshead.

This meant Tolent was in breach of section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, the tribunal ruled, meaning affected Unite members are entitled to protective awards that provide remuneration for 90 days’ pay.

In February last year, Tolent administrator Interpath Advisory said that 313 staff were made redundant after its appointment, however the tribunal judgement said the total number of proposed redundancies was “in the region of 356”. It is not known how many of these workers were represented by Unite.

Protective awards are paid by the government-run Redundancy Payment Service. National Insurance contributions are deducted from the award, as are any state benefits drawn by the former employees in the 90-day period after their redundancy.

Interpath Advisory did not engage with the tribunal action and declined to comment. Unite was contacted for comment.

In an interview with Construction News last year, Tolent founder John Wood called the impact of the firm’s collapse on its staff “tragic”.

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