Thursday, 15 September 2011

Council transfers jobs & services to construction company accused of 'Blacklisting'!

Labour controlled Tameside Council in Greater Manchester, have transferred council jobs and services to a construction company - which has been accused of blacklisting workers - in a bid to save money.

This week a local newspaper reported that council employees from estates and facilities management, which includes caretaking, cleaning, building management, and the helpdesk, are now to be employed by the multinational construction company Carillion, as part of the Tameside Investment Partnership (TIP). Although staff and services are to be transferred to Carillion, the council point out that assets will be retained by the council.

Councillor David Sweeton, executive member for business and community development, told the paper:
"There is nothing to fear from these new arrangements. The TIP does not determine council policy or strategy nor do they carry out work on any projects or services, unless it is formally requested to do so by the council. It`s also important to stress that any staff transferring to the partnership will have their pay, conditions, Trade Union and pension rights fully protected."
Although councillor Sweeton sees this as a 'landmark decision for the council' that will "help to ensure that in future we can meet our savings targets, protect jobs and continue to deliver high quality value for money services", others remain highly sceptical about the future of jobs, the savings to be made, and the future of council services.

The report says that Carillion`s own annual report, reveals that "more than 3,000 people lost their jobs in the support services section of the business in the 2009/10 financial year." It is also claimed that though Carillion plan to deliver services in each department around £20,000 below the expected budget to return a profit, more severe cost cutting will be necessary, for the company to make a profit and for the council to start saving money.

Many council employees in Tameside will no doubt, be highly suspicious, when they hear the council talking about guaranteeing pay and conditions to those employees being transferred to the partnership.

In 1990, the council transferred 12 council-run elderly people`s homes to an arms-length company called Tameside Enterprises Limited (TEL). Though the 484 council staff who transferred to TEL were told that if the company failed, their employment and the homes would return to full council ownership, this did not happen when in 1993, the company was found to have incurred debts of £2.2 million and the worker`s were forced into accepting wage cuts in order to keep their jobs.

The Conservative leader on the council, John Bell, is angry that his party wasn't consulted more but believes that if the scheme saves money and makes services more efficient, it has to be looked at. He told the paper:
"It seems to be a tactic to hive off our town halls and corporate buildings to save money. We must make sure that hire fees don`t become out of reach - they are the people's towns halls. If you want to change a light bulb in the town hall, they'll come and do it, but they`ll charge you a lot of money."
Earlier this year a former council employee, told Northern Voices that as part of the Local Education Parnership (LEP), Carillion did not have to tender for work with the council and was also sub-contracting work, to firms such as Baxter Storey to deliver catering contracts. We also understand that Carillion, have expressed an interest in turning Dukinfield Town Hall into a hotel, which would among other things, provide wedding functions.

In the last two years, Carillion, has come under a great deal of criticism for its involvement with a secretive blacklisting organisation known as 'The Consulting Association' (TCA). In 2009, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), raided the premises of the TCA in Droitwich and discovered files on over 3,000 construction workers which contained, both personal details and details about trade union activities. The ICO reported that the TCA had operated on behalf of 44 UK major building companies and had illegally shared this information among subscribing firms who paid an affiliation fee and a payment for every name checked by TCA. One of the firms implicated in this blacklisting scandal was Carillion. Ian Kerr of the TCA was later fined £5,000 after admitting breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA).

One of the workers who found himself on the blacklist, was Dave Smith (46) from Essex. In August, Mr. Smith, told the Central London Employment Tribunal that he was victimised by Carillion, after becoming a safety rep during the 1990's. Papers submitted to the tribunal showed that senior managers from the company supplied information about Mr. Smith to TCA. Mr. Smith who is suing Carillion for £175,000 in lost wages, says that because of the blacklist he lost work and suffered unemployment. Dave Clancy from the ICO, who uncovered the blacklist, gave evidence to the court and stated that the people carrying out the blacklisting, were very senior industrial relations or human resources managers, often at director level.

Although lawyers for the company sought to have Mr. Smith's claim against them struck out, Judge Pearl, found in favour of Mr. Smith and a full hearing is now set to take place in January. After the hearing, Mr. Smith, said:
"Carillion have been caught red handed: the evidence against them is damning. Senior managers from the Carillion group participated in secret and systematic abuse of human rights for decades. But to date, we have not heard one word of apology."
Already, picketing has been taking place by blacklisted workers at sites run by Carillion or their sub-contractors in Tameside and further action is being considered. The local Trades Union Council in Tameside, have also written to the leader of Tameside Council, Cllr. Kieran Quinn, about the council`s involvement with Carillion. At the time of writing, we understand they have yet to receive a reply from him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only surprise about this is that anyone would be surprised.