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Compel and Info'Products targeted by laid-off staff

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Info’Products UK and Compel are being sued for unfair dismissal by approximately 60 former employees who were made redundant last week. Around one third of the 150 Info’Products staff laid off since Compel agreed to buy the company will today present a joint claim against the two resellers to a solicitor. The redundancies came less than a month after Compel agreed to buy Info’Products, and only days before the official hand over. The legal claims are being co-ordinated by George Fodor, who was Info’Products legal manager until he was made redundant last week. Fodor told The Register he is claiming that the ex-employees are entitled to 90 days pay – instead of the 30 days offered – regardless of how long they had been at the company. Those with over two years’ employment at the Chelmsford-based reseller also received one week per year worked. Today’s move could lead to the solicitor issuing Protective Awards against Info’Products and Compel – regarding the extra 60 days salary owed. The two parties are expected to receive legal papers by the end of next week. The group also cites contraventions to TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings [Protection of Employment] regulations), regarding the transfer of Info’Products’s staff contracts in the take-over. According to Fodor, Compel acquired the staff of Info’Products in the eyes of the law when it agreed to acquire the company itself. It was not, therefore, permitted to lay-off employees in the interim period between agreement to buy and the finalisation of the deal. UK employment law states that if more than 100 employees at one "establishment" are made redundant then those staff are entitled not only to a longer consultancy period, but also to a minimum 90 days salary. There is, however, no concrete definition of the term "establishment" - which may prove vital to the outcome of the case. An independent legal source told The Register that there are examples of case law where "establishment" had been defined as a single company with a number of separate offices. This will come as bad news to Compel, who may be hoping to prove that laying off Info’Products staff from a number of different sites will exempt it from these regulations. Over half the group that had worked for over two years at the Chelmsford-based reseller may then go on to pursue these other grievances in separate court cases. Fodor, who was at Info’Products for almost five years, said: "(The Compel takeover was) handled appallingly, and in my personal opinion, was done without due regard for the employees." Mark Howling, Compel UK managing director, said this afternoon he was not aware of the lawsuit. He said the redundancies were a joint decision, adding: "Once we agreed to acquire Info’Products, we worked with them on the number of redundancies." Howling said Compel had sought professional legal advice and believed the process was fair and lawful. "We’ve been through a fair and proper procedure. I’m surprised they’re doing this and that they think they can win." In response to Fodor’s statement about the takeover, he commented: "You do get employees who feel emotional and unhappy. But I think, for the majority of staff, we’ve been considerate. It was fair and fast. We’ll just have to let the process take it’s course. But they don’t have a case they will win." ®

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