Sunday 15 March 2015

Pobol CWM, yogurt pots and Victorian values

This week's Carmarthenshire Herald is now out (hurry, while stocks last) and it will not make for happy Easter bunnies in County Hall.

First up is a story which is probably the most disgraceful piece of news to come out of Carmarthenshire County Council so far this year - and with less than three months gone, there are already quite a lot of contenders for that title.

The Herald is reporting that a sub-contractor for CWM Environmental is advertising jobs at just £6.50 an hour "where you will be targeted on picking rates and expected to stand for long periods of time".

Not only that, but you will have to arrive for work at the crack of dawn with your own transport, and "the ability to speak and understand Polish is an advantage but not essential".

This flies in the face of the council's much-trumpeted change of heart on the Welsh language, and it is by no means the first breach of the raft of commitments the council entered into just 12 months ago.

Visitors to CWM's website will also notice that it is entirely devoid of Welsh.

Some animals are more equal than others

If that is not bad enough, we have a Labour-run council whose "arm's length" wholly-owned subsidiary is employing people under conditions not far off what you would expect to find in a third world country.

Anyone who saw the most recent meeting of the full council will have noted the scorn which was poured by the chief executive and his supporters in the chamber on the the idea that his contract of employment might in future be limited to five, seven or ten years, with councillors having to decide whether he merits an extension.

The same people have no problem with employing staff on zero hours or short-term contracts paying the minimum wage.

The council is the sole shareholder of CWM, and the council is responsible for the company. Turning a blind eye and hiding behind the excuse that CWM operates at arm's length is no excuse.

Language standards

The latest scandal also raises questions about the Welsh Government's "language standards". These are supposed to ensure that people using public services will be able to use Welsh, but the Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws, acknowledged recently that it was not yet clear what the position would be in the case of services, such as care of the elderly and social care, which were outsourced to private sector companies, charities, etc.

Carmarthenshire County Council seems to have hit on a novel approach to avoid meeting its commitments on the language and paying a living wage. You just outsource to your own wholly-owned subsidiary and declare that it is nothing to do with you.

The council has plans to outsource more and more of its services, including domiciliary care.

Whenever language rights are disregarded, you can be sure that other rights including fair pay and decent conditions of employment will be sacrificed as well.

The story was picked up over on BlogMenai on Friday, and to Kevin Madge's shame has even made it into the pages of the Daily Mail (with apologies for linking to that particular newspaper).


If that hasn't put your blood pressure through the roof, the Herald has plenty more on the Carmarthen West link road scandal, the council's refusal to avoid cuts to vital services by using a small part of its massive reserves, and the absurdly generous treatment by the council of Towy Community Church.

As the Herald suggests, there are already hints in the council's press releases that it may not force private developers to meet the cost of the £5 million plus link road, and its attempts to spin the story by making it sound as though the link road and housing are needed to serve S4C's new headquarters may well have given the developers a very useful bargaining chip.

Further, it is now clear that while the Executive Board has sanctioned the use of reserves to pay for the development, subject to certain secret "safeguards", it has not actually hammered out an agreement with the developers.


Returning to the subject of Towy Community Church, both this blog and Caebrwyn have noted in the past how the church received £50,000 from CWM Environmental which vehemently denied that it had come under any pressure from the council to chip in to help out the church.

A glance at Towy Community Church's most recently published accounts for the year to 31 December 2013 shows that it didn't end there. Another £25,000 came in from a firm called Grantscape, an outfit which specialises in managing grant applications and awards. 

Grantscape's relatively small list of clients includes CWM Environmental, and there is a handsome testimonial from CWM's boss, John Rees.

Recycling is certainly good for the environment, but the next time you wash your yogurt pots, you may want to spare a thought for those Polish workers and others picking up £6.50 an hour at five o'clock in the morning for back-breaking work.

If you are Pam Palmer, you will at least be able to console yourself with the thought that some of the proceeds are going to help a "Christian enterprise".



According to CWM, the £25,000 Grantscape grant was part of the original £50,000 grant. Because the project progressed very slowly, the grant award fell into two separate financial years.


Anonymous said...

Great Job

Anonymous said...

God is certainly good and generous to the Pastor £30k pa split between himself and his good lady

Anonymous said...

£6.50 P/Hr,and a tetanus injection to go with it,just in case.WHAT A JOB.

passerby said...

now let me see... start at 5am finish at 7pm.. home at 8pm, bit of dinner, bed at 10pm.. up at 3.30am, start at 5am... 5 and a half hours kip... finish at 7pm... repeat sequence.


somehow even if it was £10 an hour doesn't make it attractive.

slave wages or slave hours? can't have it both ways