Carillion Staff Overwhelming Vote for Strike Action

GMB trade union members at Great Western Hospital (GWH) working for Carillion have voted overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot for strike action. There was a 100% yes vote, on a 89% ballot. GMB will now move to a formal strike ballot in the New Year.

The 400 bed Great Western NHS Hospital was one of the first to be built under the Private Finance Initiative at a cost of £148 m with Carillion as the lead contractor. The hospital opened in 2002 to replace the services previously provided at the Princess Margaret Hospital, which had served Swindon since 1959. The facilities at the hospital include an accident and emergency department which sees approximately 50,000 patients per year, an Acute Assessment Unit, an eight bedded Intensive Care Unit, an intermediate care Centre on site, a health and social care education Centre called the academy, and a wide range of wards and clinics, including 400 in-patient beds, serving approximately 300,000 people. Facilities management at the hospital is provided by the private contractor, Carillion.

The GMB alleges that an attempt was made by Carillion to intimidate staff to prevent them from voting in the consultative ballot. GMB branch secretary, Andy Newman says “Carillion wrote to GMB falsely claiming that our ballot was illegal, so we brought in a solicitor, Charlotte Groves from Thompsons to act as a legal observer. We know that Carillion tried to prevent staff from speaking to us,  Our members were threatened with dismissal if they came to see us during their working hours, even if they were on their break times. So they had to come and see us before and after their shifts.”

The GMB trade union which represents 150 of Carillion’s 200 strong workforce is proposing industrial action due to allegations of bullying, discrimination and harassment. They have already presented Carillion management with a formal complaint signed by almost 110 staff.

Mr Newman is calling on Carillion to negotiate to prevent a strike. “No one wants a strike in the NHS” he said, “but currently Carillion are refusing to talk to us. Carillion’s attitude is almost inexplicable: its UK support servicing company claims that its bid pipeline has grown 50pc to more than £11bn over the past 12 months, so why it is prepared to jeopardise its reputation by seeking a confrontation to defend a bullying junior supervisor is a mystery.”

The GMB union points out that over 100 staff have now made allegations of bullying against a specific junior supervisor. “Instead of talking to the union to deal with this issue in a mature way, Carillion seem to be hiding behind the formalities of their grievance process, but the trouble is that staff have been too scared to give evidence” said Mr Newman.

GMB wants the NHS trust to intervene, and investigate the claims of bullying. Carole Vallelly GMB organiser, explains: “The relationship between the NHS trust and Carillion is due to the private PFI funding of the hospital, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Carillion are the supplier, and the NHS representing the general public, are the customer.”

Ms Vallelly added “If there is a strike, then Carillion will not be providing the services that the NHS trust is paying for. So the trust does have an interest in resolving the dispute. It is a scandal that Carillion will not talk to the union to try to avert the strike, and the NHS trust should tell Carillion to get their act together”

GMB is disappointed that the NHS trust has not already intervened. Ms Vallelly says “Oonagh Fitzgerald, the director of workforce and education at the GWH NHS Foundation Trust, said that she was sure that Carillion would deal openly and fairly with any complaint, and that it is a question for the contractor, not for the NHS trust.”

GMB believes the NHS Trust’s position is mistaken. “We are keen to avoid a strike, but we have to emphasise that Carillion are not dealing with the issue at all, and are currently refusing to sit down and talk with us. So staff who are being bullied feel they have no alternative other than to consider industrial action. If there is a strike then the hospital’s service to the public will be affected and wards may even close; so the NHS Trust do have a very direct interest in ensuring that substantive negotiations between GMB and Carillion do take place to avoid strike action that none of us want.” Said Ms Vallelly.

13 comments on “Carillion Staff Overwhelming Vote for Strike Action

  1. Strategist on said:

    Carillion used to be known as Tarmac, and what they did was put the black stuff down on the roads.
    What the fuck are they doing running a hospital? What a joke.

  2. jock mctrousers on said:

    Sort of on topic (strikes, as in ” we don’t really want to go on…”), to echo a few other commenters, emmm… any views on the PENSIONS SELL OUT i.e. the union bureaucracy surrendering the last inch without a fight like we all knew they would?

  3. prianikoff on said:

    Well done.
    I hope the staff at Great Western Hospital get widespread support and they win their dispute. The issues are not unlike the ones in the recent NUT strike at Langdon School in Newham, which appears to have won concessions.

  4. prianikoff on said:

    re jock mcT #3

    Len McCluskey has put out a statement through Unison United Left which has been widely circulated to anti-cuts groups.

    A summary of the main points:-

    * “…you will have read over the past few days of ‘deals’ being reached between government and the joint unions over the future the schemes affecting millions of public sector workers. This is simply not true. Despite the rhetoric from government ministers, no ‘deals’ have been concluded in any of the schemes.”

    * NO agreements have been reached in the Civil Service or Health

    * In Local Government a ‘Principles Document’ was agreed with the employers, following full consultation with leading lay membership, between Unite, Unison and the GMB and the Local Government employers group.
    This framework allows for further negotiations over the next year on a range of issues that are of central importance to our membership.

    *This agreement however, has now been suspended following the issuing yesterday of a letter from the Communities
    Secretary; Eric Pickles, detailing an imposed ‘cost ceiling’ for the employers and other issues of serious concern.

    (note: Since this statement was made Pickles has admitted a “mistake” and backpedalled to try to get the negotiations restarted)

    * UNISON are consulting with the lay national committee before any more negotiations take place

    UNISON UNITED LEFT is at
    UnitedLeft@googlegroups.com.

    ————————————–

    Martin Powell-Davies of the NUT executive issued a statement
    “Organise to Defeat this Pensions ‘Deal'”. which made the following comment:-

    “The main education unions, NUT, NASUWT, UCU – along with UCAC in Wales and EIS in Scotland – have refused to sign-up by the imposed deadline.
    The PCS rejected the deal outright – and have the support of others like NIPSA. UNITE did not sign-up to the deal in Health after details of the proposals were shared with – and rejected – by their Health Sector National Committee.”

    “When the NASUWT and NUT Executives meet in early January to discuss the proposals, they must be opposed. In doing so, we must also confirm plans for further action alongside other unions in the New Year. At least now the stark reality will be clear to all – we fight on or we allow the Government to get away with their robbery of our hard-earned pensions.”

    http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/2011/12/pensions-organise-to-reject-shoddy-deal.html

  5. prianikoff on said:

    There are several rank and file initiatives to organise against any sell-out

    DEFEND PENSIONS – ESCALATE ACTION
    – NAME DAY FOR NATIONAL STRIKE
    Friends Meeting House (opp. Euston Station) Saturday 7th January 2012 11am –
    4pm

    Chair: Janice Godrich PCS President
    Main Speaker: Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary (other speakers to be
    announced)

    A lobby of the TUC has been called for Thursday January 12th by “Unite the Resistance”.
    2pm, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

    More details here:-
    http://uniteresist.org/

  6. #3 Any particular reason why you want to pour cold water on this dispute?

    I ask that because as a regular you know full well that there are other more pertinent recent threads where people have raised the issue you raise.

    And are you suggesting that it’s wrong to point out that most people don’t want to go on strike unless absolutely necessary? Do you in fact believe this not to be the case?

  7. prianikoff on said:

    Neil Faulkner and Alex Snowdon put up an article on the Counterfire Website on Wednesday, 21 December.

    “The pensions dispute: what’s going on?”
    http://counterfire.org/index.php/articles/analysis/15357

    It says:-

    “We should flood the union offices with protests against the sell-out and demands for new strikes. And we should also build the Coalition of Resistance as an alternative framework for building mass, broad-based, all-out action to stop the cuts.”
    The only problem is that COR’s website doesn’t give any further information to its supporters.

    The most recent article about the Pensions dispute is a petition directed at other trade union leaders, against reaching an agreement, being circulated by Alex Kenny of the NUT
    (who was strongly against any calls for a General Strike at the 2nd COR conference)

    (extract)

    “We agree with those union general secretaries who are against accepting this offer. We ask all union general secretaries, if is was right to strike against these proposals on November 30th how it can be right to accept them now?
    Ordinary trade union members have demonstrated their determination to resist these unfair and unnecessary changes; we call on our trade union leaders reject the Government’s bullying tactics and reject their unacceptable offer.”

    But the COR website has no mention of the lobbies, nothing about continuing the strike action and there has been no mailing of supporters of COR on the issue. Once again, it’s tailing behind events, not leading.

  8. I am writing an article today about the GMB, UNITE and UNISON victory in the LGPS dispute, and how we mustn’t let this success divide the unity of the movement

  9. cliff foot on said:

    #9 – Good luck to the Carillon workers, Carillon are right sharks. ‘Unity of the movement’, yes, however, Re ‘GMB, UNISON, UNITE victory’… If this is victory, i wouldn’t like to see defeat.

  10. jock mctrousers on said:

    #7 ” Any particular reason why you want to pour cold water on this dispute? ”

    No, and I don’t; just, like others, I’m wondering why there’s been no discussion here. Thanks for the links and info, everyone.

  11. #12

    Well you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that I have been spending most of my time lately up to my neck in this dispute with Carillion. Hence limited time to write about the pensions dispute.

    Also it was not clear wat was actually happening