CAMPAIGN FOR REDUNDANCY RIGHTS IN SODEXO
SODEXO VOLUNTARY SEVERANCE/EARLY RETIREMENT OFFER
ADVICE TO UNION MEMBERS
This bulletin updates members on the negotiations between the probation unions and Sodexo in relation to the sub-standard severance offer which has been made by the company to staff in its six CRCs. Talks took place again on 24 and 25 August to see if we could find a way to settle the dispute over the offer. Unfortunately, the talks which the parties were directed to hold by the NNC were not productive and Sodexo refused again to improve its sub-standard offer.
SODEXO OFFER IS VOLUNTARY REDUNDANCY
Napo and UNISON maintain that the severance offer that has been presented by Sodexo is a voluntary redundancy scheme and therefore must comply with the terms of the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy (EVR) Scheme, as set out in the NNC National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections.
Our position is clearly supported by the Secretary of State Michael Gove, who in the attached letter to the trade unions dated 14th August 2014 states:
‘Any proposals to amend these [NNC] terms, like those Sodexo have put on the table, will need to be considered through negotiation with trades union and in accordance with applicable employment law. With regards to the differing Voluntary Redundancy terms that Sodexo are offering, my officials are continuing to work closely with them to ensure that they comply with their contractual obligations.’
The probation unions entered into negotiations with Sodexo in good faith to consider proposals by the company to vary the terms of the EVR. However, Sodexo failed to play their part and have failed to improve on their opening offer. Instead, they have disingenuously, and rather clumsily at the 11th hour, claimed that they are offering an entirely separate voluntary severance scheme. This is in order that they can short change employees and side step their contractual obligations.
UNIONS TO ASK JUSTICE SECRETARY TO INTERVENE
The unions will now be writing to Michael Gove asking for him to intervene urgently: firstly, to ask that Sodexo halt their redundancy process; and, secondly, to ensure Sodexo comply with their contractual obligations to use the NNC EVR scheme in the event of voluntary redundancies.
ADVICE TO MEMBERS
This guidance note sets out advice from Napo and UNISON to any members who have expressed an interest in, and are now considering whether to accept, the Sodexo voluntary severance/early retirement offer in your CRC.
You should be clear that the unions do not support the current Sodexo offer, and do not believe that it represents an acceptable offer for our members. Under the circumstances:
- it is entirely up to you as an individual to decide whether, or not, to accept the current Sodexo offer
- Napo and UNISON will offer continuing support to their respective members, as far as we are able, in relation to any potential application for the Sodexo offer, notwithstanding our opposition to it
Staff, who are under 55, are just being offered the Sodexo voluntary severance offer of 2 weeks actual pay for every year of service up to a maximum of 30 weeks.
This offer compares very badly with the National Negotiating Council enhanced voluntary severance offer, which Sodexo has refused to offer, which would have given you 4.5 weeks actual pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 67.5 weeks.
The Sodexo Offer for the Over-55s
Staff who are over 55 are being offered a choice of:
- either the voluntary severance offer (as above)
- or early retirement with an unreduced pension
In making your decision you should therefore bear the following in mind:
- If you are over 55 and want to take the voluntary severance offer, the company will include a clause in your settlement agreement to say that you won’t exercise your right, under the LGPS regulations, to take your pension early.
- The unions are currently taking legal advice on whether it is permissible for Sodexo to include such a clause in the settlement agreement.
- If you stayed with your CRC and were eventually made compulsorily redundant, you would get at the very least both statutory redundancy pay* and immediate payment of an unreduced pension if you are over 55. Of course, there is no guarantee that you would be made compulsorily redundant, so it is up to you to assess the pros and cons of agreeing to leave with the Sodexo offer now, or staying and possibly being made compulsorily redundant with the above benefits.
- Cumbria & Lancashire CRC and Northumbria CRC have both just unilaterally changed their local redundancy policies which gave staff the same benefits on compulsory redundancy as are available under the NNC enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme (i.e. 4.5 weeks pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 67.5 weeks)
- Napo and UNISON has advised members in these two CRCs to write to their employer to object to this unilateral change. This is with a view to Napo and UNISON potentially being able to take claims on behalf of members in these two CRCs to enforce the original compulsory redundancy terms in the event that you are eventually made compulsorily redundant. However, we cannot provide any guarantees to you at this stage in relation to the likely success of any such claims, and you should not rely on this outcome in your decision making.
1. Sodexo has confirmed that a member of staff who wishes to accept their voluntary severance/early retirement offer must first sign a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement to waive certain employment/legal rights in the future in relation to the settlement you reach with Sodexo.
2. Napo and UNISON have asked for an extension to the period in which settlement agreements are required to be signed and returned. We believe that the timescale needs to be realistic and consistent across the six CRCs. Sodexo are considering our request and we will inform you about the outcome if we get a positive response.
3. Any member who is considering accepting such a settlement from a Sodexo-owned CRC is strongly advised to seek advice from your respective union in relation to the settlement agreement before you sign.
4. Both Napo and UNISON can provide legal assistance in relation to your settlement agreement via the Settlement Agreement Unit of our legal providers Thompsons Solicitors and recommends that you refer your settlement agreement through your respective union in this way. Detailed advice will be sent to members shortly, on how to access legal assistance from your respective union.
5. Unfortunately, Sodexo is offering to pay only £250 plus VAT towards the cost of your settlement agreement, which will not meet the cost of using Thompsons Solicitors Settlement Agreement Unit. The unions have asked Sodexo to increase the offer of assistance with the cost of the settlement agreement to £350 plus VAT to ensure that you can take advice from the unions’ solicitors. It is entirely normal for an employer to meet the full cost of any settlement agreement required by that employer.
6. Nb: If you choose not to use Thompsons Solicitors and instruct alternative legal representation, in relation to your settlement agreement, it might have consequences for the assistance that Napo and UNISON may be able give you with your case going forward in any matter relating to your settlement.
7. Please speak to your local union representative if you have any questions
*Note: Statutory Redundancy Pay
Employees with at least two years' continuous employment get a statutory redundancy pay entitlement of:
- 0.5 week's pay for each full year of service while they were under 22
- 1 week's pay for each full year of service while they were 22 or older, but under 41
- 1.5 week's pay for each full year of service while they were 41 or older.
The statutory redundancy payment is capped at £464 a week. From 6 April 2015 the payment cap will increase to £475 a week.