The transfer of Bristol City Council’s lowest paid staff in security and cleaning to Bristol Waste to save the authority a few quid and prop up their cash-strapped waste company looks racist.
One thing left unexplored by the council’s HR Committee last Thursday was the fact that, at least, 34 per cent of the staff involved are black and many have English as a second language. Although that’s not the full picture as ethnic data on this section of the council’s workforce is incomplete.
Many observers see this as a text book case of institutional racism as well-paid white male bosses assure councillors that these voiceless staff are happy to be transferred over to Bristol Waste on poorer terms and conditions than the ones the bosses will continue to enjoy.
Director of Workforce John “Bedwetter” Walsh – who gets by on £122,475 a year plus £20,835 pension contributions – didn’t mention to the HR meeting the make-up of this section of his workforce. Was he embarrassed to admit that he’s forcing one of the lowest paid sections of his workforce with one of the highest numbers of black employees on to second class terms and conditions?
An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) has been produced for a Cabinet meeting on Thursday and it confirms that 34 per cent of this workforce is black as well as showing that data on ethnicity for this section of the workforce is incomplete. The assessment also contains plenty of weasel words that try to excuse management.
For example, it claims any ‘potentially adverse impacts on people with protected characteristics’ are ‘indirect’. As if poorer terms and conditions do not directly affect those concerned? The EqIA also claims, ‘contractual terms and conditions (including pay and pension) are protected in law, and it would be unlawful for the new employer to seek to change these for any reason connected with the transfer.’
Then comes the caveat, ‘unless they have a justifiable Economic, Technological or Organisational Reason for doing so’. In other words, Bristol Waste have loopholes on hand to set about attacking these workers’ terms and conditions from the day one.
The assessment also explains that ‘Non-contractual elements – such as HR policies – would change to those of the new employer, which may be more or less generous than those currently in place’. Why so coy over whether these conditions are more or less generous? The council know. It’s a simple exercise for HR bosses to read Bristol Waste’s HR policies and compare them to their own. Why hasn’t this been done?
On the question of whether these workers’ existing HR terms and conditions will be protected, we’re told ‘BCC and BWC may secure greater protection of noncontractual terms, subject to this being affordable within the overall business case for the proposal’. In other words, terms and conditions will be traded away on the basis of a mysterious business case that hasn’t been published.
Last year the council published a worthy ‘Transforming race and equality at BCC’ document to help them tackle their ongoing problems with institutional racism. The report’s recommendations under the heading ‘Corporate Leadership’ addressing Equality Impact Assessments say, ‘In the event of there being likely disproportionalities in relation to BAME staff, a corporately agreed mechanism should be established to explore the reasons; and to determine whether there may be ways of mitigating against this.’
So where’s Bedwetter’s corporately agreed mechanism exploring the reasons why black staff are being disproportionately affected by an outsourcing plan that’s attempting to save a few quid at the expense of workers’ dignity?