Some Rangers players are considering not returning to the club for pre-season training, because they believe it may undermine their position if they wish to object formally to their contract having been transferred to Charles Green's newco.
If the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment procedures have not been properly followed, then the players could take legal action against the newco for 13 weeks' wages, a claim that could amount to £5m in total if all players decided to act.
In an interview on Rangers TV yesterday, Green said that the players' contracts had been transferred to his newco last Thursday, when he bought the business and assets of Rangers Football Club plc. However, under TUPE regulations, staff must be given reasonable notice of the transferral of their contract, to allow them to deliberate, take advice and then decided if they wish to object or not. It is the belief of PFA Scotland, who have been seeking the advice of a QC, that this procedure wasn't followed, and so the newco is open to a legal claim by the players.
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"A failure to comply [to TUPE regulations] can result in the recognised union, as is the case regarding the players, seeking a protective award of 13 weeks' pay for each affected union member," said an employment law specialist. "The union would have to raise a claim for a protective award before the Glasgow Employment Tribunal to argue there had been a failure to inform and/or consult with them regarding the affected employees."
Most of the players are angered by Green's failure to speak to them before transferring their contracts. There has been no dialogue with them or their agents, although Green said yesterday that he and manager Ally McCoist will meet the squad when they return for pre-season training on Thursday. However not all of them may turn up. If any are considering rejecting the transfer of the contract, and so wish to leave as a free agent, then turning up for work may prejudice their case. The same would apply to accepting wages, which are also due to be paid on Thursday, although there are serious concerns that Green's consortium has the funds to meet obligations.
"If a player has not formally objected to the transfer before they receive their first wage from newco then there is a risk they may be deemed to have acquiesced to the transfer," the employment law specialist said. "The length of time which has elapsed between the transfer [sale of assets] and the date on which the wage is paid could be a crucial element here.
"I don't think that turning up for training/returning to work from holiday would itself confirm an employee has acquiesced or failed to object to a transfer, but again, if the employee and union have been advised that the transfer has taken place yet a week elapses and no formal objection has been raised, this would weaken the employee's subsequent argument."