Durham Cathedral workers unlikely to see all cash won in hearing

CATHEDRAL workers who secured a five-figure damages payout after winning an unfair dismissal case will only receive a fraction of the cash, it has been revealed.

CATHEDRAL workers who secured a five-figure damages payout after winning an unfair dismissal case will only receive a fraction of the cash, it has been revealed.

Six staff at Durham Cathedral bookshop sought compensation after their employment was terminated without warning in January last year.

Joan Cummins, Lyn Yard, Carol Ross, Susan Bolam, Elizabeth Towns and Eleanor Jones were all employed at the store located within the historic cathedral.

Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company (DCSMC), which is run by American brothers Philip and Mark Brewer, were found liable to pay compensation

The pair took over a number of cathedral bookshops in the UK from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in November 2006.

The women had claimed for a range of damages, including failure to honour redundancy pay, unfair dismissal, breach of contract, unpaid work, loss of holiday pay and failure to pay notice.

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills was named as the second party in the case and as liable to pay redundancy cash owed to the six.

But the women have been warned by their solicitor that the Brewer brothers have been uncontactable to serve them the damages bill. And in another blow, the workers are likely to get just a few pence in the pound from the Government for its portion of the cash liability.

Ms Cummins, from Newton Hall, Durham, who helped to lead the case alongside Sara Devennie, a solicitor representing Usdaw, said they were resigned to missing out on most of the cash.

“It wasn’t about the money,” she said. “It’s the principle. We know that the brothers have not responded to any contacts we have tried to make and we don’t expect they will.”

A tribunal hearing on Newcastle’s Quayside this week found the women were dismissed contrary to employment law and should collectively receive around £27,000 in compensation.

Employment judge Jim Shepherd ruled that the rights of the staff had been ignored and awarded each worker damages ranging from £2,000 to £10,600.

He added that DCSMC had displayed a “total failure to warn workers of their employment rights”.

The cathedral bookshop re-opened in March last year under the direct management of the cathedral itself and all six former employees have been re-hired.

In early 2010, Durham Cathedral bosses served notice on the Brewer brothers to vacate the shop, the last in the UK to be involved with the SPCK, amid serious concerns on how the outlet was being operated.

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