Union officials are threatening to press for compensation of up to £4m from William Hill, if they can prove that the bookmaker’s acquistion of rival chain Stanley Racing was a full buy-out rather than a share deal.
The Transport & General Workers (T&G) union has applied to the Employment Tribunal to establish the existence of a ‘transfer of undertakings’ in the deal.
The move was officially confirmed by shareholders today.
If successful, the union said it will press for compensation for more than 1,000 members who work in the betting shops, for lack of consultation during the transfer.
“William Hill and Stanley Racing are attempting to wriggle out of their obligations to their existing and future employees by hiding behind a ridiculous claim that the buyout of Stanley Racing was little more than a share acquisition,” said Colin Carr, Liverpool-based regional industrial organiser for the T&G.
“William Hill has bought more than 600 betting shops and will obviously run them as a going concern under the management and ownership of William Hill plc.
“To suggest otherwise is a gross injustice to the thousands of workers who provide betting shop owners with the services that make their huge profits.”
The T&G has the sole bargaining rights for staff at Stanley Racing and currently has more than 1,000 members across the company.
But Carr said the directors of William Hill had refused to reply to the union’s request for talks.
“Considering they stand to lose nearly £4m in compensation should we win at tribunal, they would be wise to hedge their bets and start treating their prospective workforce with a bit more respect,” he said.
However, David Russell, group HR director at William Hill, said it was a share deal, with Stanley becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the company.
“At this stage it will be ‘business as usual’ in both businesses and nothing will change in the immediate future,” he told Personnel Today.
“All relevant employees will, for the time being, remain employed by the existing relevant Stanley Company and therefore neither their employer nor their terms and conditions are changing. This is therefore not a transfer of an undertaking and Tupe does not apply.”
Russell said William Hill has already written to all employees at home with a question and answer document. A full programme of employee communication commenced on Friday.