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East Lancashire Royal Wedding 'party poopers'

Lancashire Telegraph: BIG DAY Prince William and Kate Middleton BIG DAY Prince William and Kate Middleton

TENS of thousands of East Lancashire workers could be forced to work Royal Wedding day — and for no extra pay.

April 29 has been declared a public holiday, but the wording of employment contracts means up to 70,000 people in the area are set for disappointment.

Most larger firms, councils and health bodies are honouring the move.

But it is thought workers at smaller firms could be told to work and given a standard rate of pay, rather than a typical bank holiday bonus payment, such as double time or a day in lieu.

Unions urged firms not to be spoilsports, while an MP said it would be ‘completely unfair’ to deny people the chance to celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

Ruth Rule-Mullen, an associate solicitor at East Lancashire law firm Forbes, said the key to workers’ fate on April 29 was in the wording of contracts.

For example, if a holiday agreement states ‘25 days plus eight bank holidays’, staff may be legally called into work because the contract does not recognise any additional public holidays.

Mrs Rule-Mullen estimated that 30 per cent of East Lancashire 228,000 workers could have similarly-worded contracts, potentially affecting almost 70,000 people.

Most contracts declare the employee is entitled to an unspecifided number of bank holidays.

Mrs Rule-Mullen said: “We have had quite a few phone calls from concerned employers asking about the way their employees’ contracts are worded.

“For smaller companies in particular this is proving a real headache.

“In the majority of cases employees will be off work, but in some cases it is simply not possible.”

Haslingden flooring company Interfloor is one firm which has told employees that they must work on April 29 without ‘additional working premiums’.

The firm declined to comment but a company notice, seen by the Lancashire Telegraph, says: “We will be treating this day as a normal working day.

“Anyone who wishes to be absent on the day should request to take the day from their holiday entitlement.”

GMB union officer Elana Armstrong said: “I think this is rather bah humbug because the day has been declared a public holiday.

“I would urge the company to offer double pay or a day in lieu as a gesture of goodwill, even if the contracts don’t require it.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “It is completely unfair.

"I would encourage all employers to take a decision to have the day off.

"The wedding is a cause for national celebration and everyone should be able to enjoy celebrations in local pubs or street parties.”

Large firms - including Daisy in Nelson, BAE Systems in Samlesbury, Capita in Blackburn and Darwen, Optare in Blackburn, Promethean in Blackburn and Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick - said their staff would be given the day off.

Bosses at Thwaites in Blackburn said production would continue but that they anticipated enough volunteer workers to cover shifts.

All councils in East Lancashire are expected to allow the vast majority of their workers to stay at home on April 29.

Bosses at East Lancashire Hospitals, which runs Blackburn and Burnley hospitals, said they had met union leaders over the issue.

Human resources director Ian Brandwood said: “We have provisionally agreed to treat it as a normal working day for all employees, but give staff an extra day off in lieu to be taken at their convenience.”

Dennis Mendoros, managing director of Kelbrook-based Euravia, said he would be giving the aerospace firm’s 100 employees the day off on April 29.

He said: “This is a day that the whole nation should be celebrating.”

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mike Damms said most office-based companies, both large and small, would probably elect to allow staff the day off.

However, retailers, others in the service sector and some small businesses would be forced to call on employees.

He added: “I am minded to believe that giving people the day off will have no impact on sales or the economy.

“There is a feel-good factor and that makes people work harder when they are in.”

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