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Wooster claimes £1m from council for age' redundancy

PUBLISHED: 17:39 08 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:25 05 October 2010

John pictured (top) in Wooster Gardens and grandfather (above) rallying protesters during 1921 Poplar rates strike

John pictured (top) in Wooster Gardens and grandfather (above) rallying protesters during 1921 Poplar rates strike

Carmen Valino

COUNCIL worker John Wooster is claiming £1 million for age discrimination' when the local authority he'd worked 33 years for made him redundant just before his 50th birthday. He wanted to work till he was 65. The Wooster family had been associated with local government for three generations, his grandfather being Mayor in the 1920s. But an employment tribunal has ruled the council used age discrimination against him

By Julia Gregory

LONG serving council worker John Wooster has won an employment tribunal after claiming £1 million for alleged age discrimination’ when the local authority he’d worked 33 years for made him redundant—just before his 50th birthday.

He wanted to work on until he was 65.

The Wooster family had been associated with local government in London’s East End for three generations—his grandfather was even Mayor of Poplar back in the 1920s.

John had been looking forward to retiring in 2022 with a send-off from his colleagues at the Town Hall.

Instead, he was made redundant in 2006 from his £38,000-a-year job as a senior consultation officer with Tower Hamlets council, at the age of 49.

But an employment tribunal at Stratford has ruled the council acted like a misguided juggernaut’ in making him redundant.

It ruled he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against because of his age.

“Losing my job was like a bereavement,” John said after the hearing.

“I hope lessons have been learned and nobody else goes through what I did.”

John’s grandfather was Mayor of Poplar and one of the Labour councillors involved in the 1921 Poplar rate strike, whose name is commemorated at Wooster Gardens on an East End housing estate by the docks.

His godfather was actor Jack Warner, of TV’s Dixon of Dock Green fame in the 1950s, who also came from the East End.

John, now 51, who has spent two years fighting his case, started work with Tower Hamlets when he was 16, straight from school, and worked his way up the municipal ladder until he was seconded as a senior consultation officer to East End Homes housing trust in 2001.

Tower Hamlets claimed he was only a temporary employee and, as a result, refused to redeploy him when the housing trust secondment drew to an end in December, 2006, six months before his 50th birthday.

His lawyer claims the council dismissed him knowing he would be entitled to his pension and a lump sum if he were made redundant on reaching 50. Mr Wooster was dismissed that month.

The council deliberately refused to redeploy John Wooster when his secondment was drawing to an end in December, 2006, despite an offer from the organisation to pay his salary up to the following July, when he would have turned 50.

Mr Wooster was scathing in his attack on his treatment by the Town Hall after the judgement in his favour.

He told the East London Advertiser: “The money Tower Hamlets has spent trying to fight me off could have been spent on getting rid of rubbish or graffiti or better housing.

“I devoted 33 years of my life to the council, which repaid me by dismissing me to save money by not paying my pension entitlements.

“Now I’m going to lose 10 to 15 years towards my pension.”

He claimed a total of £1m to compensate him for his loss of employment until his age of retirement at 65, loss of pension, and injury to feelings.

The Tribunal found John Wooster was unfairly dismissed and subjected to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of his age. Level of the compensation is being decided at a further hearing.

But Tower Hamlets later refuted the findings and was preparing to lodge an appeal.

A Town Hall spokeswoman said: “The council does not accept the finding of the tribunal that Mr Wooster’s dismissal was age related’ and in breach of the Employment Equality regulations. We will be filing an appeal.”

It claimed John was “allowed to benefit” from a secondment to another organisation rather than being made redundant, following a staff restructure.

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