Union dispute threatens support services at Great Western Hospital
Claims of bullying and harassment against a contractor at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital (GWH) are threatening support services including porters, theatre technicians, catering and cleaning staff. One hundred and fifty members of the GMB union are in dispute with the contractor Carillion.
Local GMB organiser, Carole Vallelly, told Marlborough News Online that Carillion refuse to recognise the GMB although it represents “by far the biggest number” of support workers at GWH. Carillion have told her that nationally they recognise Unison (with hardly any members at GWH) and Unite (with the minority of members at GWH.)
Ms Vallelly says there is a loophole in the law on the recognition of unions which allows an employer to recognise one or more unions even though they may not represent most of their workers. “But it is morally not right not to recognise the union most of your employees belong to.”
A ‘consultation ballot’ of GMB members will be held on Thursday (December 22) to see if they’d vote for strike action. This is a preliminary consultation and not a vote on whether to take strike action.
The message going out on Wednesday (December 21) to all GMB members at the hospital is “Vote ‘yes’ for respect at work.”
Carole Vallelly says that Carillion management shows too little respect to their workers and acts in a bullying way towards them. Some workers are very afraid of the management and will not report incidents.
There is also an issue over restrictions imposed by Carillion on taking holidays – which causes special grievance at Christmas.
The ballot paper for the consultative vote will ask members if they are prepared to vote for strike action for the following reasons: “An end to bullying management, a fair system for holiday booking, and recognition of the chosen union, the GMB”.
The result will be announced on Thursday night. Ms Vallelly expects a good turn out and a strong ‘yes’ vote: “Our members are some of the loqwest paid in the hospital and can ill afford to lose a day’s pay, but we believe the majority feel so strongly about this issue that they’ll be prepared to take action.”
A full ballot on strike action could then be held after Christmas. But Ms Vallelly adds: “Of course, our hope is that Carillion will negotiate with us to avert this dispute, but so far they have refused to talk to us.”
Following the GMB’s allegations of bullying and harassment, a Carillion spokeswoman at head office said the firm had a long history of excellent employee relations with their staff at GWH and “are very disappointed to hear of the allegations.”
“We take matters of this nature very seriously and have well-established processes under which our employees are encouraged to come forward with any concerns they may have, so that allegations of this kind can be thoroughly investigated. However, as we have not received the allegations to which the GMNB refers, we cannot comment further at this stage.”
Oonagh Fitzgerald, Director of Workforce and Education at GWH said: “We work closely with Carillion to provide essential support to our front line services and the welfare of everybody working at the GWH is important to us as a Trust.”
“Allegations made by a member of staff of a contractor, or other third party are the responsibility of the company concerned. In this instance we are confident that if the union provides information to support the allegations then they will be investigated openly and fairly by Carillion.”