Monday, March 12, 2012

Swindon march puts the pieces together

FROM a friend out west, news of a demonstration this weekend through Swindon, to be led by striking GMB members protesting against bullying, harassment and discrimination by Carillion, the company responsible for running facilities management services at the Great Western Hospital.

The GMB members work as porters and housekeepers in catering and cleaning and other support roles at the hospital.
These workers have taken several days of strike action standing up to say they won’t tolerate bullying any more.

The GMB union leaflet says:
"Bullying is a widespread problem in Britain, with 20% of workplaces reporting it as a serious problem. In addition, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in association with MORI and Kingston Business School
identified that one fifth of all UK employees have experienced some form of bullying or harassment over the last two years.

"Everybody deserves to be treated with respect at work, and bullying should not be tolerated. Black and Asian workers are twice as likely to be bullied at work, and disabled workers are three times more likely to be bullied. Bullying can cause health problems, including anxiety, headaches, nausea, ulcers, sleeplessness, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, tearfulness, loss of self-confidence, various illnesses of the organs and even thoughts of suicide.

"We demand that management acknowledges that bullying is a problem, and puts in place measures to prevent it, working with the unions."

Seeing the name Carillion reminded me of the recent Industrial Tribunal I attended where this company admitted to blacklisting construction engineer Dave Smith after he had raised issues such as asbestos safety. Bullying and blacklisting go together. It was about this time last year that electrician Frank Morris was threatened with violence and victimised from the Olympic site in Stratford, after asking about a fellow worker who had been blacklisted.

I thought I'd pass on information about the Swindon dispute and march to friends in the Blacklist Support Group, but it turned out the Carillion connection was stronger than I thought, and the brothers and sisters were ahead of me. Dave Smith has been invited to address the Swindon rally on Saturday.

A statement from the GMB says Carillion's human resources boss (what we used to call "Personnel" when I was a lad) involved in the Swindon dispute was also responsible for the company's links with the blacklisting outfit that led to thousands of trade unionists being excluded from employment. The union in Swindon suggests this may be one reason the management has been slow to meet them on the bullying issue.

"From Dave Smith GMB has learned that a London Employment Tribunal in January was presented with evidence that Liz Keates the Carillion HR Director involved in the dispute at Swindon managed Carillion’s relationship with the Consulting Association. This was the body that was responsible for the ‘blacklisting’ 3,200 construction workers and excluding them from employment because of their trade union activities.

"In February 2009 officers from the Information Commissioners Office seized documents which made clear that the Consulting Association was operating a blacklist of trade unionists on behalf of major companies in the construction industry including Carillion. There has since been an admission by Carillion that two of its subsidiaries had ‘penalised’ Dave Smith for being a trade unionist.

"GMB members are now on the eleventh day of strike action at Great Western Hospital in Swindon. They will return to work at midnight tonight and a further seven day stoppage will take place from Saturday 17th March to Friday 23rd March. A St Patrick’s Day march and rally will be held in support of the strikers who at the start of the a further seven days strike. The details are as follows:

Assemble 11:15 am, Saturday 17th March

Salisbury Street,

Swindon SN1 2AN

Rally, 1:00 pm.

Canal Wharf,

SN1 5PL.

Speakers invited Dave Smith construction worker blacklisted by Carillion, Jerry Hicks Unite and Blacklisted workers campaign, Anne Snelgrove, Swindon Labour Party, John Drake Chair SW TUC, plus speakers from GMB.

The Swindon dispute has also drawn attention to the extent of big business penetration of the health service well before Andrew Lansley's Health Reform bill puts the seal on it. On strike days union members have been visiting staff at other Carillon locations. On Friday 24th February GMB members visited Carillion staff at Darenth Valley hospital in Dartford Kent.
They have also protested at Carillion's headquarters in London, and at places such as Nationwide Building Society and Zurich Insurance in Swindon from which Carillion have been drawing staff to do the strikers' work.

The GMB has also written to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee asking for an investigation into the siphoning off of NHS cash into tax free scams for foreign investors using Channel Islands. The overall Private Finance Initiative(PFI) contract for the Swindon hospital is owned by Semperion, a holding company that owns 35 PFI contracts to run NHS hospitals in the UK. Semperion is based in Jersey for the express purpose to enable overseas investors to avoid tax on dividend income arising from running these NHS facilities. The ultimate holding company is Jersey registered Semperian PPP Investment Partners Holdings Ltd.

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