GWH support workers say they are prepared to take strike action
Support workers at Great Western Hospital employed by the contractor Carillion, have declared overwhelmingly that they are prepared to take strike action in a dispute over alleged bullying of staff. There was a one hundred per cent ‘yes’ vote in the consultative ballot, on an eighty-nine per cent turnout of the GMB union’s one hundred and fifty members.
Andy Newman, the local branch secretary, explained: “Staff feel very strongly that they are being harassed and bullied, that the system for booking holidays is unfair, and they are angry that Carillion will not talk to their chosen union, the GMB.”
The GMB will now move to a formal strike ballot in the New Year.
The GMB alleges that an attempt was made by Carillion to prevent staff from voting in the consultative ballot. Andy Newman says: “Carillion wrote to GMB falsely claiming that our ballot was illegal, so we brought in a solicitor to act as a legal observer. We know that Carillion tried to prevent staff from speaking to us, even on their break times.”
The GMB trade union which represents 150 of Carillion’s 200 strong workforce at the hospital is proposing industrial action over allegations of bullying, discrimination and harassment. They have presented Carillion management with a formal complaint signed by over a hundred staff.
Mr Newman is calling on Carillion to negotiate to prevent a strike. “No one wants a strike in the NHS” he said, “but currently Carillion are refusing to talk to us.”
GMB wants the NHS Trust to intervene, and investigate the claims of bullying. GMB’s local organiser, Carole Vallelly said: “The relationship between the NHS trust and Carillion is due to the private PFI funding of the hospital, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Carillion are the supplier, and the NHS representing the general public, are the customer.”
Ms Vallelly added “If there is a strike, then Carillion will not be providing the services that the NHS trust is paying for. So the trust does have an interest in resolving the dispute. It is a scandal that Carillion will not talk to the union to try to avert the strike, and the NHS trust should tell Carillion to get their act together.”
Oonagh Fitzgerald, GWH’s director of workforce and education has said that she was sure that Carillion would investigate any complaints openly and fairly with any complaint, but that it is a question for the contractor, not for the NHS trust.
The GMB believes the NHS Trust’s position is mistaken. “We are keen to avoid a strike, but we have to emphasise that Carillion are not dealing with the issue at all, and are currently refusing to sit down and talk with us. So staff who are being bullied feel they have no alternative other than to consider industrial action.”
In their only statement on the dispute, Carillion said they had not received the allegations to which the GMB has referred.