HUNDREDS of workers made redundant from the Tullis Russell paper mill in Fife with just one days’ notice have won a landmark £1.5 million payout.

Union chiefs at Unite went to an employment tribunal in Dundee with a team of lawyers from Thompsons Solicitors to fight for compensation for the devastated workforce who had their lives ripped apart within 24 hours.

The tribunal judgement ruled that 374 staff made redundant in April 2015 at the Markinch plant after it went into administration were entitled to share in £1.5m compensation through the UK Administration Service, which will come out of the public purse.

Despite Tullis Russell directors being under an obligation to give employees at least 45 days’ notice as more than 100 workers were losing their jobs, they failed to do so, which meant every employee was entitled to sue the company.

The workers’ Unite convener at Tullis Russell, Paul Reilly, said: “This money definitely helps a wee bit. A lot of guys have lost a lot of money and they are entitled to some kind of recompense.

“The £1.5m goes a long way, not to make amends for it, but it definitely helps a year on.

“The majority of people have found new jobs. I am not saying they are as well paid or have the same terms and conditions but a lot of them have gone on to get new employment or further training through the task force which has been really good.”

He said the ruling will not put “brutal and ruthless” firms off leaving it to the last minute to tell workers their lives have been destroyed.

Reilly added: “I don’t think this will have any impact on any firms. I think our employment laws and our administration legislation allows companies to do this at a minute’s notice and I don’t think this award is going to change that because the company didn’t pick up the tab for this – it was the insolvency service through the public purse.

“Corporate laws are not strong enough in this country to stop companies who want to ultimately put their business in profit that ultimately loses hundreds of people their livelihoods. They were ripped away in a split second. If they are as brutal and ruthless as that, this won’t make any difference to them.”

Reilly said that after a year he has still not been able to find work after 11 years at Tullis Russell.

He said: “I have not been able to find work in a year because of my union background, and because I have been involved in hundreds of protective awards through tribunal. This has made a lot of companies very shy of taking me on.”

Thompsons won a similar case when they took Sports Direct Tycoon Mike Ashley to a tribunal after he dumped 50 Ayrshire workers last year with 15 minutes’ notice.

David Martyn, senior employment lawyer at Thompsons, said: “This award of compensation will be paid by the UK administration service.

“That means that the taxpayer has picked up the tab because company directors have played fast and loose with the rules.

“This has to stop and I believe we need to see more criminal prosecutions of companies that behave this way. This happened with the recent case of Mike Ashley’s USC firm in relation to the way they behaved towards workers in Ayrshire.

“But we also need the Scottish Government to look at introducing a system of compulsory insurance for employers.

“This would ensure that employees receive their full dues when a company goes bust and would avoid the need to take legal action.”

He said the former workers and the union were “absolutely delighted” at the payout but it won’t give them their jobs back or inject new life into their small community.

“It is a small victory in the grand scheme of things because these people have still lost their jobs but it gives them something at a tough time.

“The money will be split between them, not necessarily evenly because it will depend on what their wages were.

“My colleagues have spoken to the workers and they are delighted.

The trade union that has been dealing with this are also absolutely delighted.”