Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has made a claim to the Employment Tribunal on behalf of redundant Woolworths staff for a “protective award”.

Usdaw has accused Woolworths’ administrator Deloitte of “serious legal breaches” in the handling of the process and wants staff compensation from the tribunal of up to 90 days’ pay.

Usdaw national officer John Gorle alleged Deloitte had “failed to provide the union with essential information and failed to consult in a meaningful way”.

He said: “Usdaw will now be taking the legal route to send a message to all administrators that the union is here to defend members’ rights.

“Our members have not only lost their jobs but have also lost out on their contractual service payments, because of the state of the company’s finances.”

There is sympathy among retailers for the plight of former Woolworths employees, but there is also anger that financiers such as Burdale and GMAC – which precipitated the retailer’s demise – will not only get back the£385m lent but net millions more in penalty fees.

Deloitte declined to comment on Usdaw’s claims.

UK unemployment neared 2 million on Wednesday, latest statistics showed. The impact of the Woolworths job losses is likely to register prominently in next month’s figures.

On Wednesday, representatives from companies including Sainsbury’s met Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a jobs summit to discuss unemployment.