SIX Durham Cathedral bookshop workers have been awarded a total payout of nearly £28,000 after successfully suing its former owners for unfair dismissal.

An employment tribunal held in Newcastle yesterday found the six, with 90 years’ service between them, were unfairly dismissed by American brothers Phil and Mark Brewer when they suddenly, and unexpectedly, closed the shop, in January last year.

Joan Cummins, one of the six, said: “I’m so delighted. It was never about the money.

We’ve got our justice.”

Tribunal judge Jim Shepherd awarded the women settlements of between £2,000 and £11,000 each – covering compensation, redundancy, unpaid wages, holiday pay and notice period pay and for the Brewers’ failure to explain their dismissals.

However, Mr Shepherd questioned whether the Brewers, who were not represented at the hearing and have not responded throughout, would pay out.

Should they fail to do so, the women could receive only statutory redundancy pay.

Having taken over the bookshop, once described as the best in the world, in 2006, the Brewers were accused of running it into the ground.

Mrs Cummins said: “It was an absolute disgrace. We had no stock whatsoever. We were ashamed of it.”

Staff were told the shop was to close immediately on January 22 last year by Philip Davies, the cathedral’s chapter clerk, who was passing on the message from the Brewers, the tribunal heard.

Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham, apologised, saying it was a “sad time for the cathedral”.

Mrs Cummins said: “Everyone was shocked and upset.

We were like a family.”

In an email, Phil Brewer blamed the closure on factors including the economic downturn and bad weather.

The cathedral reopened the shop on March 1 and continues to run it. All six staff still work there.

The women took their case to Usdaw, the trade union, who instructed Sara Devennie, of lawyers Beecham and Peacock, to pursue the case.

After yesterday’s hearing, Mrs Cummins, 61, said: “We hope we never see the Brewers or their like in the cathedral ever again.”

A Durham Cathedral spokeswoman said it would not comment before receiving advice on the tribunal’s outcome.