Saturday, 10 July 2010

BURY MBC'S Alice-in-Wonderland Analysis of Ballot

A 'Con-Con-Con-Consultative Mechanism' not 'An-An-Anarchy!'

Isn't our Great British local authority management 'wonderful' in the Alice-in-Wonderland sense of the word? On the 25th, May 2010, Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) at Bradley Fold Waste Depot concluded a 'consultation' of its workforce about its Head of Waste management's proposal to shift the work start time from 7am to 6.45am in a morning for emptying the bins. On June 25th, 2010, it reported that the result of this 'consultation' was:

32 against the earlier time;
22 in favour;
17 did not reply.

On the basis of these figures management claims it has the right to change the start time to Quarter-to-Seven arguing: 'Given that there was no overall majority view either for or against moving the start time to 06.45 and management believe that the proposal will be very much to the benefit of the service...' It is rumoured that the Head of Human Resources has retrospectively justified this decision by saying 'We don't ballot our workforce' on what to do, for to do so, would be 'anarchy'. He is said to have claimed: 'We are here to move the business forward', no matter what, and we need to show our political masters that we are 'doing something'. At a time when trade unions have to ballot their members through independent bodies like the Electoral Reform Society (remember the British Airways and RMT disputes) with great care; managements, like Bury MBC, can employ this upside-down logic to overturn results if they don't like them. They can, like Bury MBC, simply call them 'con-con-con-consultative mechanisms' and the powers-that-be will not blink an eyelid.

So now you know the 'consultative mechanism' in the management's 'tool kit' or 'bag of tricks' is not interested in what people think so much as in justifying what management want to do anyway. Anything else would be, to use the Greek word meaning 'without government or bosses': 'Anarchy!'. To give a bunch of binmen the right to decide, would be 'mob rule' no less, for we all know 'the boss knows best'. And British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico has shown what happens when management 'don't have the tools in their tool kit'.

But do management know best?

The current changes at Bradley Fold, Bury, have been the result of management failing to listen to the workforce last year and insisting on enforcing a scheme based on a computer software model that, in the end, brought forth accusations from the binmen of bullying by management, victimisation and a strange accident proneness on the job owing to the pressure from management (a bin waggon blowing up in Radcliffe; a crushed foot; squashed arm; and this week, the police were involved when a rushed binman was caught urinating up a back-alley). The Unite the Union shop steward, Alan Stewart, raised these pressures with management last year soon after the new scheme was introduced, but last week after an appeal he has been dismissed in a contested case on grounds of disability. Alan Stewart, is the second Unite shop steward on the bins to be dismissed at Bradley Fold; he follows the notorious case of the sacking of Joe Cleary, the Unite shop steward who was got rid of after a questionable surveillance exercise by Bury Council that got into the newspapers.

At the time of writing Julie Burgess, the Unite officer is challenging the management handling of the 'ballot', but Steve Morton, the UNISON representative with a handful of members at Bradley Fold, has yet to comment.

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