Great song about blacklisting – a real problem in the UK, and one affecting many readers of this site. Click below to listen to “There is a blacklist”
Excellent evening last night, at Exeter City FC, for the SW TUC awards, where GMB activists involved in the dispute with Carillion at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital were winners in the Best Campaign and Organising category.
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Cleaners, porters and domestic workers fighting a campaign at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital hospital will today be recognised by the South West TUC.
Around 150 GMB members employed by Carillion at the town’s Great Western Hospital have taken 21 days strike action over what they claim are persistent failures of management to deal with evidence of wrong-doing, including the allegation that supervisors demanded gifts in exchange for holiday approval and overtime.
Now their efforts have been rewarded by trade unionists in the South West, with reps picking up the South West TUC ‘s Campaign and Organising Award at a special ceremony at Exeter City Football Club.
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The Green leader of Brighton & Hove City Council Jason Kitcat recently mentioned that the pay bill for Brighton & Hove Council is £180m.
By this he is referring to the total “controllable” wage bill. i.e that which is not subject to national agreement. (The total budget for the council is £750m)
We have also heard that around 6,000 of the total 8,000 workforce receive allowances. And also that 80% of these staff will see no change to their pay.
Of the other 20%, some of the hardest hit are the 260 refuse & parks workers at the CityClean & CityParks departments. They are 4.3% of the total B&H staff with a total wage bill of around £5m. Which is just 2.8% of the total overall wage bill of the council.
So, these 4.3% of staff receive just 2.8% of the wage bill. i.e. they are some of the lowest paid and are facing cuts of up to £4,000 per annum, with the average loss around £2,000 on top of losing 8 days from their holiday allowance.
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GMB members working in the Cityclean Department of Brighton & Hove City Council are to be balloted for industrial action over plans to make huge cuts to their take home pay which are being proposed by the Council’s Green Party administration.
Rob Macey, GMB Senior Organiser with Southern Region’s Legal, Political and Campaigns Department has written a very clear account for Red Pepper of the workers’ case. I recommend you read Rob’s article in full, especially as he explains well the shennanigens in the Green group of councillors, and the sharp practice of the shifty council leader, Jason Kitcat.
In January 2013 the council announced that they would seek to introduce a new pay and allowances system for staff. Importantly, they have provided no proper legal rationale for doing this, and have refused to say what has changed since 2009 when agreements were made which were certified as legally sound at the time.
The council’s framework for implementation of the proposals was contained in a pay modernisation paper submitted to the Policy and Resources committee. The document recommended delegating responsibility for the negotiation and implementation to officers rather than elected representatives.
Councillors present voted by a majority to accept the recommendations of the paper, with Green and Conservative councillors voting in favour and Labour councillors against.
During the negotiations the council issued a press release indicating that the Cityclean Service would operate on bank holidays. They also briefed ward councillors on a planning application to allow this to happen. This is significant, as the effect of doing so means the loss of ‘make up pay’ for employees taking on the additional work and hours after a bank holiday, which is paid if strict conditions are met. This action highlights a blatant lack of meaningful consultation as it is clear a decision had already been made.
As the negotiations progressed it was clear to see that the council were not prepared to budge and that little was to change between their initial proposal and what would became their ‘best and final’ offer. A large number of GMB members would still stand to lose up to £4,000 per year, and 260 members at the Council’s Cityclean department were to be particularly badly affected, with an average loss of £2,000 rising to £4,000 for many.
GMB members, in dispute with Carillion at Great Western PFI Hospital in Swindon since December 2011, today demonstrated at Southmead Hospital in Bristol over the on-going dispute and blacklisting by Carillion.
150 GMB members employed by Carillion at Swindon have taken 21 days of strike action over the persistent failure of the Carillion management to deal with evidence of bribery and corruption on the contract which was covered up for some years. The matter is now before an Employment Tribunal following the failure of talks at ACAS to resolve the dispute.
These same members will be protesting outside RIBA for Guardian Sustainability awards in London 16th May from 12:30pm. Last month it was announced that Carillion has been shortlisted in the Society category for the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards 2013 with its entry on the Southmead Hospital redevelopment project in Bristol.
Carolle Vallelly, GMB Regional Officer, said “GMB is nowhere near resolving the dispute at Swindon or reaching a settlement on blacklisting. In fact the dispute between Carillion and GMB is set to widen as Carillion ignores TUC guidelines for dealing with trades unions in hospitals covered by PFI schemes in other parts of the UK. Carillion has got to come to terms with what their managers have done to workers in Swindon and to the workers they blacklisted. There is not much use just making apologies. They have to accept what they did was wrong and then take steps to put it right. Until this happens there will be no end to this dispute.
Ms Vallelly added “For Carillion to be shortlisted for any award, given the sheer hypocrisy at the heart of the company, is appalling. GMB is examining various ways of conveying this to MPs when the company parades its spurious credentials at a reception in Parliament next week.”
Today saw publication of the interim parliamentary report on blacklisting by the Scottish Select Affairs Committee. In its statement released today, the committee says that the major construction firms that established and funded a systematic blacklist of construction industry workers appear to be continuing to avoid taking full responsibility for their actions.
The report is utterly damning, and the committee says that while the blacklist was not initially illegal, it was always morally indefensible, and the companies involved continued to use it after it had become illegal. The companies involved included some of the biggest names in construction but also many smaller firms. The organisation set up to create, maintain and operate the blacklist – the Consulting Association (TCA) – appears to have been largely established by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, which also provided TCA’s Chairmen for eight of its 16 years of operation. Other major subscribers included Carillion, Skanska and Balfour Beatty.
Information given by Ian Kerr, who ran the Consulting Association, to the Scottish Select Affairs Committee revealed that the organisation functioned in secret, with a senior HR representative of each of the 44 building firms acting as the key contact. These contacts provided the information to Mr Kerr which was used to build a database of information about thousands of workers in the industry. The same contacts also contacted the Consulting Association when they were seeking to hire, at which point they faxed through a list of names, which Kerr would check against the database, and then he would phone through to the contact and read out the information on the cards, for any names he matched. In an average year there would be between 38,000 and 40,000 names referred by member companies.
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I was delighted at the response of David Miliband in resigning as vice chair of Sunderland after the appointment of open fascist Paolo di Canio as manager. Since then, Durham NUM have asked for their banner to be returned, up until now proudly displayed at the Stadium of Light:
Davey Hopper, General Secretary of the NUM in Durham, and a former secretary at Monkwearmouth pit – on which Sunderland’s Stadium of Light is built – said the fury of his members had sparked the move.
He said: “We are writing to the club asking for the return of the banner unless Di Canio says he is not a fascist. Otherwise his appointment will besmirch the memory of the miners who lost their lives in the fight against fascism in World War II.
“We do not want our union associated with the club now.”
Back in 2011, Wiltshire and Swindon GMB, where I am branch secretary, withdrew our sponsorship and commercial links with Swindon Town FC, when they appointed Di Canio. During the twelve months up to that point we had provided £350 in direct sponsorship, and £3500 in business to the conference/catering arm as we used the club venue for training. We also provided a free advert for season tickets in our branch newsletter with distribution of 5000. These were popular decisions among the branch committee, and the direct sponsorship brought with it free tickets and other benefits that were raffled among members. Small beer compared to some big sponsors, but Wiltshire and Swindon GMB had a genuine commitment to the club.
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Last Saturday saw the launch meeting of the new Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, created by the merger of the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions (LCDTU) and the United Campaign for the Repeal of Anti-Trade Union Laws. And yesterday saw the launch of the People’s Assembly initiative, aiming for a mass public meeting on June 22nd, backed by UNITE, PCS, NUT, Aslef, CWU, NUJ, RMT, TSSA, and suprisingly, UNISON.
So this is an opportune moment to consider the political and social strengths and weaknesses of the trade union movement. Personally I am firmly convinced that the cause of organized labour is the fundamental bedrock of progressive politics; it is not only a source of empowerment and self-organisation, but it also instrumental in creating communities of solidarity, which provide the ideological counterpart to the individualism and social irresponsibility of unrestrained capitalism.
There are three questions to consider: what is the current relationship of trade unions with broader society; what are the political objectives consistent with promoting the interests of trade unionism; and what is the current ability of trade unions to organize and prosecute the interests of their members by industrial means.
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Saturday’s Daily Mirror reported the shocking fact that environmental campaigners have been listed alongside construction workers on the notorious blacklist illegally maintained by the Consulting Association, on behalf of big building firms like Carillion, Balfour Beatty and MacAlpines.
Eco-warrior Tamsin Omond was kept under surveillance and put on a scandalous construction blacklist alongside thousands of workers.
She said last night it was outrageous that she had been snooped on just for being a green campaigner. Tamsin, 28, was one of 240 women who appeared on the 3,213-name list of “troublemakers”. She was unaware she was on the file until the Mirror tracked her down on a trip to India and broke the news.
Tamsin, who was convicted of trespassing at Parliament in 2008 during a protest against expansion at Heathrow airport, said: “Gathering information on environmental activists seems to be incredibly paranoid.” Londoner Tamsin, one of Britain’s leading green campaigners, added: “It’s a massive infringement of rights. “You’d expect global capitalists to infringe workers’ rights but it will be terrible if there’s involvement from our public services such as the police.”
The Morning Star reports that suspicion of police involvement may be well founded:
London’s Metropolitan Police is to conduct a major investigation into allegations that it colluded with the blacklisting of construction workers… The investigation by the Force’s Directorate of Professional Standards’ (DPS), which is to be supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, follows mounting evidence that both the police and the security forces may have provided information for a blacklist run by the Consulting Association.
The issue first came to light in January 2012 when Information Commissioner’s Office head of investigations David Clancy – who led a raid on the association’s offices in 2009 which discovered a database with details of thousands of individuals – told an employment tribunal that “information on some of the blacklist files could only have come from the police or the security services.”
Mr Clancy repeated the assertion in evidence to the Scottish affairs select committee investigation into blacklisting. The claims of collusion are to be probed as part of Operation Herne, an ongoing investigation into the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad, a deep undercover section of Special Branch. The investigation has been set up as a result of a complaint by the Blacklist Support Group.
The Met DPS originally refused to investigate the complaint, but was forced into a U-turn after a successful appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by solicitors Christian Khan. Partner at Christian Khan Sarah McSherry said the IPCC’s decision to uphold the appeal was in stark contrast to the original DPS view that “the complaints process is not the correct vehicle to forward their concerns or allegations.” She said they would be making further representations to the IPCC arguing that, “given the seriousness of the allegations of widespread corruption and criminal behaviour on the part of Metropolitan Police officers, the DPS should have no involvement in the investigation of this complaint.”
Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group added: “We want to know why information collected by the police has ended up on a secret blacklist of trade unionists operated by multinational companies. “If police collusion is proven, at best it is individual corruption. At worst it is systematic state involvement in a major human rights conspiracy.”
Dave Smith himself is back in court tomorrow, seeking justice from Carillion over his inclusion on the blacklist, when the Employment Appeal Tribunal is holding a Permission Hearing. Mr Smith took a case against these three Carillion companies to Employment Tribunal in London in January 2012. In the judgment in March 2012 (Case no 1310709/2009) the judge said “It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy”.
This was because he lost the case on the technical point that he was not directly employed by Carillion who blacklisted him but was “employed” by an employment agency. Tomorrow’s hearing arises from this case.
“I have not had an apology or one penny compensation from Carillion who kept me out of work costing me and my family hundreds of thousands in lost wages and I want justice from the courts”, says Dave Smith.
It is worth examining in particular the case of Carillion, as this is a company deeply embedded into public services provision, for the NHS and councils. The culture within the company of disregard for the rule of law is especially concerning as so much public money is siphoned off to them.
Carillion’s involvement with blacklisting came to light when in 2009 the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) seized a database of 3,213 construction workers used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. The ICO confirmed that Dave Smith was one of 224 construction workers from around the UK were victims of blacklisting by Carillion. These names, on the files of the blacklisting body The Consulting Association, were released in the course of the Dave Smith’s employment tribunal.
There is evidence from the Information Commissioner that Carillion involvement with the Consulting Association blacklist included parts of their organization such as Crown House, Schal International, SkyBlue Employment Agency, Tarmac and John Mowlem as well as Carillion itself.
The following Carillion managers were named at the Scottish Affairs Committee as being involved in the operation of the blacklist: Frank Duggan: group personnel director for Carillion plc; Kevin Gorman: former human resources manager for Carillion’s Crown House division; Liz Keates: head of human resouces at Carillion; Sandy Palmer: NCS and Dave Aspinall: NCS (Carillion’s in-house employment agency); John Ball: head of human resources at Carillion; Roger Robinson and Brian Tock: two managing directors of Crown House; John Edwards from Carillion is identified as attending Consulting Association meetings in 2008.
Blacklisting by Carillion was not something rare. GMB estimates that in one quarter that Carillion checked 2,776 names with the Consulting Association and in the period from October 1999 to April 2004 it estimates that Carillion checked at least 14,724 names. This makes it one of the bigger users.
CARILLION UNCOVERS EVIDENCE OF BRIBERY & SHAKEDOWNS AT SWINDON HOSPITAL BUT FAILS TO DEAL WITH COVER UP AND INSTITUTIONAL BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION
Heads must roll and Carillion must agree to proper representation for GMB members to enable issues to be tackled at source to ensure this does not happen again says GMB
The second Carillion investigation into complaints by 150 GMB members has found evidence of bribery and shakedowns on the PFI contract operated by the company at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon.
On 27th April, in letters to individual members, Carillion communicated the interim conclusions of the second investigation into allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination that led to 18 days strike action so far at the hospital.
This is in stark contrast with the first investigation when Carillion was not prepared to uphold any of the same grievances of the staff in relation to bullying, harassment and discrimination. As a consequence GMB filed discrimination claims on behalf of the members at the Employment Tribunal. Semperian, the company which owns the PFI contract was joined to these tribunal cases
GMB members suspended the strike action to allow Carillion time to conduct this second investigation into these allegations. These 150 GMB members are involved in an ongoing dispute at the hospital against their PFI employer Carillion over allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination.
Paul Maloney GMB Regional Secretary said “Carillion has finally, after 5 months, uncovered evidence of bribery and shakedowns at the Swindon Hospital PFI contract. However Carillion have yet to make arrangements to communicate the results to GMB or the elected shop stewards or set up any meetings with GMB to deal with the findings of the investigations.
I am profoundly disappointed that this second investigation has completely failed to deal with what has been 18 months of covering up of evidence of bribery and shakedowns by managers of these employees. The investigation has failed to identify or deal with the managers who presided over this cover up.
The second investigation also avoids dealing with why the first investigation totally ignored this central issue that staff were required to “give gifts” to managers in order to secure the holiday or working time rota’s that they were legally entitled to.
In short the investigation has failed to deal with a clear case of corruption, institutional bullying and discrimination.
The outcome of the first and second investigation shows how deep seated the culture of abusing its own staff is ingrained in Carillion which was found guilty in court of blacklisting its own workers. The HR manager responsible for the blacklisting is the same person dealing with the Swindon hospital contract.
It is going to require a public campaign to force Carillion to confront the institutional abuse of its own employees and come to terms with the culture existing within its organisation.
I will consult with members on site and with the governing councils in the union to take stock as to how to progress this dispute to the satisfactory conclusion that we are still, after 18 days of strike action, far away from.
Heads must roll. Carillion must agree to proper representation for GMB members to enable issues to be tackled at source to ensure this does not happen again.”
DOREEN LAWRENCE TO ATTEND PUBLIC MEETING IN SWINDON ON MONDAY 14TH MAY TO SUPPORT CARILLION WORKERS SUBJECTED TO DISCRIMINATION
This public meeting with Doreen Lawrence and Keith Vaz MP will provide an opportunity to inform the people of Swindon of the allegations which Carillion have failed to deal with over some five months says GMB
Doreen Lawrence from the Stephen Lawrence Trust is the main speaker at a GMB public meeting begin held in Swindon next month to support GMB members at Carillion at Great Western Hospital Swindon hospital who have been the victims of bullying, harassment and discrimination which has not been dealt with.
GMB was given to understand that on 27th April Carillion would communicate the conclusions of the second investigation into these allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination that led to 18 days strike action so far at the hospital. In the last few days GMB has been given indications that there will be yet more delays in reaching conclusions into the allegations that have been around for over five months.
GMB members suspended the strike action to allow Carillion time to conduct this second investigation into these allegations. The details of the public meeting are as follows;-
MONDAY 14TH MAY
7 P.M. TO 10 P.M.
THE PILGRIM CENTRE
Other speakers are Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee (TBC), Dave Smith a blacklisted Carillion worker (TBC), Anne Snelgrove, former South Swindon MP, Andy Newman GMB Branch Secretary and GMB members in dispute.
These 150 GMB members are involved in an ongoing dispute at the hospital against their PFI employer Carillion over allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination. See note 1 below for progress of the dispute up to 26 April. After the first investigation Carillion was not prepared to uphold any of the grievances of the staff. As a consequence GMB filed discrimination claims on behalf of the members at the Employment Tribunal. Semperian, the company which owns the PFI contract was joined to these tribunal cases.
Kamaljeet Jandu, GMB National Officer for Equality and Inclusion said, “GMB members in Swindon will be delighted with the support of Doreen Lawrence who has led the campaign to end the blight of institutional discrimination and racism effecting members of ethnic minority communities.
I have attended GMB Central Executive Council meetings which have received reports about the disgraceful way these GMB members, mainly from the Indian sub-continent, working for Carillion at Swindon hospital have been treated and the complete failure of Carillion to deal with it. Yet again Carillion will not meet the deadline to communicate the outcome of the second investigation and are engaged in further foot dragging.
What this shows is that the culture of abusing its own staff is ingrained in Carillion which was found guilty in court of blacklisting its own workers. The HR manager responsible for the blacklisting is the same person dealing with the Swindon hospital contract. It is going to require a public campaign to force Carillion to confront the institutional abuse of its own employees and come to terms with the culture existing within its organisation. This public meeting is just the start of that campaign.
This public meeting with Doreen Lawrence and Keith Vaz MP provides GMB with an opportunity to inform the people of Swindon of the detailed nature of the allegations which Carillion has failed to deal with over some five months and that the union has submitted to Employment Tribunals.”