ITV Digital staff threaten Carlton and Granada with legal action

LONDON - A group of former ITV Digital staff are set to take legal action against Carlton Communications and Granada over claims that the broadcasters are responsible for the failure to honour their contracts.

Carlton and Granada are being accused of failing to provide the statutory consultation period to more than 100 former ITV Digital staff. They are also being held responsible for outstanding redundancy payments to staff.

Ravinder Mahal, an employment solicitor who is looking into the matter on behalf of legal firm Hobson Audley, said: "There is a statutory requirement in a redundancy situation [involving more than 100 staff] to have a 90-day consultation period. They did that with Plymouth staff, but not in Battersea [ITV Digital's headquarters]."

If the action goes ahead it will represent the second time the two ITV giants will be hauled up in front of the courts to defend their involvement in the failed digital broadcaster.

Carlton and Granada are also being taken to court by the Football League, which claims they are responsible for a payment of £178m owed to the league for two outstanding payments to a TV rights contract. The two could end up having to pay out as much as £500m to the league.

Carlton and Granada have refused to get involved as they refused to sign a contract making them responsible for the payments if anything went wrong with ITV Digital.

A Carlton spokeswoman defended the companies' actions by laying the blame on ITV Digital's administrators Deloitte & Touche.

She said: "Granada and Carlton underwrote all the employees' contractual rights. The 90-day consultation period is a statutory matter, which should have been handled by the administrator of ITV Digital."

She added: "If any employee feels they have a claim in this respect they should take it up with the administrator of ITV Digital. Like any other company, the ITV Digital administrator can reclaim the money paid to staff through a Department of Trade and Industry fund. We believe the staff has a good chance of receiving the money."

Last month, Carlton and Granada voluntarily sent cheques to 500 former ITV Digital staff to help make up a shortfall in redundancy payments. However, the companies came under fire when the recipients of the cheques found that the funds failed to fully make up the difference.

At the time, a spokesman for the companies said: "We have done exactly what we promised in the letter, and that means former employees have received their notice and enhanced redundancy terms."

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