GMB, the union for cleaners and security staff, will launch an industrial ballot of members working as cleaners at Nationwide’s headquarters in Swindon. The ballot will ask GMB members contracted by Carillion whether they’re prepared to take industrial action to fight cuts to working hours.
GMB regional organiser, Carole Vallelly (pictured), delivered a letter yesterday to Nationwide CEO, Joe Garner, and Head of Corporate Citizenship, Stephen Uden, which highlighted the incompatibility of Nationwide’s status as an ethical employer and their association with Carillion PLC.
The letter includes details of Carillion’s involvement in the unlawful practice of blacklisting as well as details from a damning BBC report on contractors working for Carillion in Qatar. The letter concludes “GMB believes that Nationwide’s claims to be an ethical employer do not survive examination of your relationship with the clearly unethical contractor, Carillion.”
Given the importance that Nationwide Building Society (NBS) invests in being an ethical business, as part of its brand proposition, GMB are surprised that NBS has no concerns about the association with Carillion.
GMB provided Nationwide Building Society with the statement that was submitted in open court earlier this year by a group of corporations, known as the Macfarlanes Defendants, and which included Carillion PLC. This statement concerns the terrible practice of “blacklisting”, where Carillion PLC admitted in court to having participated in the collection and dissemination of defamatory information about individuals on a systematic basis, and that these activities had consequences for certain workers “in terms of lost work opportunities or refusals of work and they had an impact on some workers’ personal lives”
This is an issue that is not only of historical interest, as the most senior Carillion HR manager, Liz Keates, is still employed by Carillion, and GMB has evidence that she is involved in the HR policies for Carillion employees at Nationwide House. Both the courts, and the House of Commons Scottish affairs select committee, have heard evidence of Liz Keates personal involvement in blacklisting activities.
GMB also drew to Nationwide’s attention the involvement of Carillion with employment practices in the construction of the World Cup stadia in Qatar, which according to a 2014 report from the BBC includes use of the “Kafala” system which is tantamount to bonded labour, and extremely poor health and safety.
The cuts to cleaners’ hours had been planned to go ahead earlier in the year but were cancelled following a series of protests outside Nationwide headquarters in Swindon, and notification to the employer of a strike ballot.
However, the trade union has now learned that Carillion intends to reintroduce the changes after renewal of the contract with Nationwide is signed on 1st October.
The cleaners currently work early shifts, but the proposed changes will see many staff work between 5 pm and 10:30 pm each weekday evening and some staff will also be required to work full dayshifts at the weekend.
Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said
“The relationship between these two companies is very convenient for Nationwide. On the one hand they can claim to be an ethical employer while keeping their lowest paid, lowest status, and most vulnerable workers at arm’s length on the other by employing them through known rogues and sharks like Carillion.
“GMB believes that nationwide are hypocrites: Their head of corporate citizenship, Stephen Uden, sits on the board of the Living Wage Foundation and earlier this year the company increased the hourly rate to £8.25. For our members however, it is not the hourly rate that matters, it’s the amount of money in their pay packet.
“The proposed shift changes will not only push some GMB members into genuine financial hardship, but the new evening hours will force many workers with children to leave their jobs altogether.
“GMB is not prepared to stand by, while Nationwide preens itself in smug self-satisfaction about what a good employer it is, while allowing Carillion to grind cleaners at Nationwide’s own headquarters into the ground.
GMB believes that every worker is entitled to dignity. Nationwide seems happy to pay lip service to being ethical, but is seemingly quite prepared to throw that out the window if there are financial savings to be made at the expense of their cleaners. GMB calls for Carillion to enter immediate talks, and to make an unequivocal and written assurance that the proposed shift changes have been withdrawn. ”