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GMB v Allen - EAT overturns decision

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Unions will be jumping for joy this morning. The EAT has overturned last summer's employment tribunal decision (see bulletin 9th June 2006) which resulted in many unions withdrawing from negotiations in the North East equal pay litigation.

GMB had encouraged its members to agree a settlement agreement (in the North-East equal pay litigation) which seriously undervalued the women's claims. The tribunal found this was indirectly discriminatory by the union, and it was believed that the GMB would be liable to pay in excess of £1m in compensation.

The EAT has overturned this decision. Notwithstanding criticisms of the GMB's method of obtaining the (potential) Claimants' consent to the undervalued settlements, it held that settlement of the claims was a legitimate aim and the means adopted were proportionate. In the crucial sentence, Elias P. stated that "In short, the fact that the objective might be achieved by using unlawful, even dishonest practices does not necessarily mean that the means are disproportionate once it is accepted that the aim itself is legitimate." (para. 89). An easy to understand example illustrating the point is given at para. 90.

GMB v Allen