The head of HR at Leicestershire County Council has hit out at the decision to award millions of pounds of compensation to council staff following a landmark unfair dismissal case.
Last week, public sector union Unison said the council's move to dismiss 2,500 staff and re-employ them on less favourable terms could result in a payout of up to 8m. The council now says that figure is likely to be somewhere between 1.5m and 4.5m.
The tribunal ruled that the council failed in its legal duty to consult with the union before dismissing hundreds of its members in March 2004.
But head of HR, Steve Shipton, told Personnel Today: "We did enter into extensive negotiations with unions but were unable to reach an agreement with them. If we have erred in law, it is a minor breach and the level of the award is out of all proportion."
Shipton said that to meet the council's commitment to equal pay for work of equal value, staff were subject to a job evaluation scheme, which was introduced in September 2002. When the council decided to proceed with implementation without union agreement, it claims it offered Unison an opportunity for further negotiations. This offer received no response, Shipton said.
"To say we are very unhappy with the tribunal decision is a bit of an understatement," he said. "Nobody lost their job or any money in the short-term, as we agreed to pay protection for a period of three years."
Shipton said any payout would have serious implications for the council's delivery of services. Last year, it was rated 'excellent' by an Audit Commission report on service delivery and the quality of management and leadership.
He added that the council was in the process of submitting an appeal and an internal review would be conducted once that had taken place.