A tribunal has ruled that Wiltshire Council's CEO acted unlawfully through an email sent to their staff.

GMB, the union for Wiltshire Council staff, claims the email was seeking to deter its traffic wardens from voting for industrial action.

The vote was part of a long-running dispute in which Wiltshire Council is seeking to remove contractual out-of-hours pay enhancement, which would result in pay reductions for staff.

Bristol Employment Tribunal has ruled that the email sent by council Chief Executive Terence Herbert in November 2022 broke industrial relations law.

The email commenced: "I wanted to write to all of the civil enforcement team directly as l have been notified by the GMB that those of you who are members of that union will be balloted later this week about whether you would support further strike action in relation to the ongoing discussions around proposed changes to the unsocial hours policy."

It stated: "As GMB have rejected the proposals we are now in the process of arranging an ACAS conciliation meeting to see if there is a way to move this forward and I am not sure what the GMB’s plan for strike action is intended to achieve.

"I am concerned that the GMB continue to present the proposals both to staff and in the media as a “10% pay cut for staff" — this is really misleading."

Mr Terence concluded: "I hope that, through the ACAS conciliation process, we are able to resolve this matter, remove the ongoing uncertainty for staff and move forward.

"I would ask you to please consider carefully whether further strike action will support this approach."

Mr Herbert argued that the email intended to “set the record straight” and provide staff with accurate information.

He denied that it sought to deter staff from voting in favour of industrial action, saying that it “wasn’t particularly relevant” whether they went on strike or not.

Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary, said: "The simple fact is the court ruled an email sent by Terence Herbert, the chief executive of Wiltshire Council on the eve of a strike ballot in 2022 broke the law.

"Furthermore, the judges state that some of Terence's evidence to the Employment Tribunal was, in their words, ‘simply implausible.’

"The judges refer to Terence's ‘frustration and irritation’ with GMB, and in our view this led him to acting rashly.

“The evidence given in court also reveals that Wiltshire Council's HR advice to Terence was completely wrong and our view is that between them they have brought the council into disrepute.

"GMB had sought to settle out of court, but Wiltshire Council preferred to waste taxpayers’ money in fighting and losing in court.

"The email was unlawful and as far as GMB is concerned it was a bully-boy ploy to intimidate staff from voting yes to industrial action, so it is no coincidence Wiltshire Council is still threatening to use ‘fire and rehire’ to force a 10 per cent pay cut on frontline workers.

"It is time for Wiltshire Council to put this long-running industrial dispute to bed and withdraw the threat of the pay cut for staff working unsocial hours."

Speaking to this paper, Mr Herbert said: “We are disappointed with the outcome of this tribunal as we believed our position was strong.

“The email was intended to correct inaccurate information and reassure staff that the council was working to resolve this as swiftly as possible as our priority throughout has been and remains their wellbeing.

“We are currently seeking legal advice about an appeal which limits further comments.

“Our priority has been, and continues to be, to resolve the terms and conditions issue as quickly and fairly as possible, and we’ll work hard to achieve this.”