Wednesday 9 April 2014

The Grand Old Duke of Garnant

Following a campaign by the Carmarthenshire branch of Unison which gathered a great deal of public support, Carmarthenshire County Council recently announced that it would put plans to remove trade union secondment time on hold.

The council employs nearly 9,000 people and is the largest employer in the county. Secondment time is crucial to enabling unions to represent their members effectively, including fighting some very complex cases of bullying, discrimination and unfair dismissal.

In one recent case a former employee won a significant victory at an employment tribunal where evidence was presented to show that managers in a council department had resorted to the nastiest of dirty tricks to smear and blacken the name of a member of staff, including forging poison pen letters.

Recent changes to the employment tribunal system have made it much harder - and more expensive - for ordinary people to bring cases against employers, and the council's abolition of secondment time tipped the scales even further against working men and women.

Incredibly the abolition of secondment time was brought in by a Labour-led council, and not one, repeat not one of the 22 Labour councillors spoke against the measure or even raised any concerns when it was voted though at the end of February.

Council leader Kevin Madge has now announced that the removal of secondment time will be put on hold for six months while an assessment is carried out.

Not quite a U-turn, because secondment time is still under threat, but the latest in a series of recent crab-like scuttles:

  • Plans to ramp up charges for sports facilities in the south of the county will go through this year, but increases for the following two years have been put on hold while the council carries out an assessment. The proposals, hailed as "fair" and designed to "create a level playing field" by Kevin Madge, Colin Evans and others senior councillors, triggered a tidal wave of protest from locals who pointed out that they were anything but fair and would cause a significant number of sports clubs to shut up shop.
  • Plans to close a recycling centre at Llangadog have been put on hold for a year after more public protests. The owner of the site told Radio Cymru that the council had extended its agreement with his company for another year, albeit under terms which will mean a reduced service to the public.
All three plans were signed off by the Executive Board, and the abolition of union secondment time was steam-rollered through the full council with the votes of Labour and Independent councillors for good measure. All three began to unravel under the weight of public protest as soon as they had been rubber stamped.

Dwarfing all of this, of course, is the Grand Old Duke of Garnant's most spectacularly pointless and expensive marching exercise so far which saw Kev lead the troops up to the top of the mountain in defence of Mark James's pension and libel indemnity schemes, before scuttling back down again in what was officially not a surrender, just a exercise in noting the findings of the Wales Audit Office.

Every one of these issues will make an unwelcome return in due course because D-Day has not been scrapped, only postponed.


Anonymous said...

The lion sleeps no more!

Sentinel said...

Recently retired from the County Council, I found that when I was bullied by senior management, the union I was with, was about as much use as a chocolate fire guard.

I used the whistleblowing scheme but wouldn't advise anyone to do this under current procedures. The investigation was less than tenacious and not all aspects of my complaint were looked at.

I believe that when local authority employees seek to reveal wrongdoing within the organisation it should be to an independent body.

The union representative that was supposed to have helped me, was something of a 'paper tiger'.

I would often email senior managers to tell them they were breaking the rules and on one occasion I had the backing of one of the County Council's Senior Solicitors. He concurred with my assertion and told the senior managers they were breaking the law.

What was the upshot of all this? The blighters just ignored the advice and carried on breaking the rules.

It's not just in Carmarthenshire however; I have friends who work in other local authorities who tell me the same occurs there.

Some of the people at the top of these organisations are arrogant beyond belief and the public need to know.

Not in every case, but on many occasions the service provided by the local authority is second rate and could be done a lot more efficiently than occurs now.

Many local authority workers know where the problems are and who causes the problems, but they are - quite understandably - frightened to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. (Delyth Jenkins will tell you about that).

If the unions were any good, Delyth would still be in post today.

Delyth Jenkins said...

Sentinel 14.53

I don't know whether all the unions are the same but I can only speak from my own experience. I was a paid up member of GMB, but I was extremely disappointed with the way I was treated by them.
I even wrote to the General Secretary of GMB when my local representatives failed me, but I didn't get a response from him. I remember attending some meetings with two Council officials, accompanied by a trade union co-ordinator from Swansea, but it would end up a three against one, even though she knew every word I was saying was true, as this was backed up with documentation to prove it.

The union need to start supporting their members. I know this can be very difficult when you are faced with a bullying culture. I was bullied by the CE and also felt threatened by his actions towards me.

The tide though, is beginning to turn where whistleblowers are concerned. A new charitable organisation called the whistler has just been launched, both Internationally and in the UK.
As whistleblowers, we cannot be ignored for much longer. As I have said before, changes must come from the top.
If you have a CE as a bully, what hope have you got? These people at the top must be role models for staff beneath them. This is the only way we can stamp out this negative culture for good.

Anonymous said...

Sentinel 14.53

What is it with some of these senior Managers? Too many promoted internally?