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GWH dispute goes to tribunal as accusations fly

The long-running dispute over the treatment of support workers at the Great Western Hospital is to go to a full employment tribunal.

Carillion who employ the workers – many of them are cleaners and they are mostly from Swindon’s Goan community – announced the decision late of Wednesday (October 10.)  It came after the GMB trade union reportedly closed down talks at the conciliation service ACAS which had begun last week.

During the dispute the GMB has called the forty-nine workers out on twenty-one days of strike action.

Carillion said they wanted to ‘continue dialogue in the interests of all its workforce at Swindon’: “The GMB’s actions in making inflammatory statements in direct contravention of ACAS protocol are deeply regrettable. Their behaviour stands in complete contrast to that of our two recognised union partners at Great Western Hospital, UNITE and Unison, who represent the majority of our workforce.”

The Carillion statement went on to accuse the GMB of using the dispute as “nothing more than a massive recruitment drive”.  Carillion works at GWH as a contractor under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme with which the hospital was built and continues to be maintained and serviced.

It was clear last week that GMB and their solicitors, Bindmans, thought the ACAS talks might fail and that the dispute would end up with a tribunal hearing of the workers’ complaints against Carillion’s management. 

A statement (October 2) from Bindmans quoted a national GMB officer: “We have fifty-seven strong discrimination cases ready to be heard at the Employment Tribunal, and we fully expect to get fifty-seven findings of discrimination.”

And the solicitors’ statement made clear that if the talks were to fail to resolve the “Claimants complaints, there will be a Pre-Hearing review at Bristol Employment Tribunal in December 2012.”

Emma Webster, solicitor at Bindmans, said: “We hope that Carillion will acknowledge the complete lack of basic respect which has been displayed towards the Claimants and will realise that the Claimants’ vulnerability as low paid immigrant workers has been completely abused.”

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