M&E Contractor Balfour Kilpatrick has lost an unfair dismissal case lodged by 80 employees at the Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in Sandwich, Kent.
More than 200 workers were dismissed in April last year after taking unofficial strike action on health and safety grounds after heavy rain at the site.

The tribunal concluded that employees used "reasonable means" to draw issues to the firm's attention. A spokesperson for the engineering and electricians' union, the AEEU, said each worker would receive £3100. In addition, they would each be entitled to an extra sum for loss of earnings, to be decided next March. He said the AEEU was delighted with the verdict, and claimed that the incident was caused by poor industrial relations.

In a statement, Balfour Kilpatrick said the tribunal concluded that there was no imminent health and safety danger when the workers were sacked.

The statement noted that the tribunal's verdict appeared to condone the use of collective action to resolve health and safety disputes. It said: "A point of principle, reflected in the law, is that health and safety representatives should take the lead. In this respect, the tribunal's judgment that collective action was reasonable, despite the fact that the designated safety representatives had never raised the issues involved, seems to be contradictory to this important principle."

It stated that in its summing up, the tribunal acknowledged that Balfour Kilpatrick had taken immediate steps to improve the welfare facilities about which the electricians complained.

The statement said the company was likely to appeal.