Category Archives: Our comrades

LABOUR: DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION SHOCKER AS DEAF CANDIDATE DUMPED

Lee-Starr-Elliott-photo-Lee-Starr-Elliott-1200x675

Labour’s long-term candidate for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park has been ruthlessly dumped by the regional party bureaucrats for requesting support as a deaf person!

Here’s the comments posted to Facebook by the former candidate, Lee Starr-Elliot on this latest Labour row

*Statement to explain my no longer standing as your local candidate! *

I am taking the time to write this to explain why after 3 years I am no longer your candidate for Labour! After applying to be a candidate back in 2018, going through the candidate approval process including checks, a panel interview organised by the Bristol Labour Local Campaign Forum (LCF) and endorsement by Bristol Labour members, I was selected by my local ward as their candidate in 2019.

I was very proud of this as I had the best interests of the ward at heart and wanted to bring back a sense of strong local community and ownership to the area, something I’ve felt has been lacking as our current councillors seem to prefer to play party politics rather than focus on the needs of local people.

However, after the pandemic hit and the 2020 elections were delayed, I lost running mates one by one due to personal or work-related issues. In the meantime I continued to move forward, founding the BS14 Community Support Group on Facebook, which has brought together local people, allowing us to help and support each other directly or by sharing helpful information. It made me proud to see BS14 come together in this way and I thank everyone who made it a success and hope it continues.

Most people are aware that I am Deaf. In previous elections, central government has provided the Enable fund to support the access needs of disabled people so that they can run for public office. The government withdrew this for these elections. I sought support from my Regional office, in line with their duties under the Equality Act, for example to provide a BSL interpreter for local, regional and national events and online training. I’m sad to say my request was not even acknowledged.

This led me to filing an official complaint, which has yet to be resolved, despite having the made the complaint nearly 5 months ago! When I asked for assistance with phone banking I was fobbed off and told to get people to volunteer! This put me at a serious disadvantage as many other people across all parties were able to phonebank, leaving me as the only one unable to do so, as by this stage the other candidates had withdrawn.

As people may understand, I became increasingly frustrated and angry that I was being discriminated this way and I took to social media to call out bad practices and condemn the leadership for failures in supporting members. Instead, they were busy suspending members for supporting the local members’ right to debate and offer solidarity to the suspended previous leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn!

While all this was happening, the regional office of the Labour Party was preventing constituency party groups from carrying out democratically agreed actions such as supporting food banks with financial donations from the members’ fund. Regional staff even went as far as suspending the AGM of a nearby constituency party and announcing they would run it months later – allowing them time to install their preferred members into positions. When they eventually ran the AGM it was shambolic and clearly designed to exclude members’ voices!

Similarly, the selection of the West of England Mayoral candidate was decided undemocratically, with the previous candidate Lesley Mansell and other left-leaning candidates excluded from the membership ballot by a regional panel. This has clearly backfired on the local party, as members are not happy to campaign for someone who while he was an MP voted for the Iraq War and is clearly against helping people such as students!!

It seems that by standing up for myself against discrimination and calling out where the party is failing nationally and regionally and when it is bullying the membership, this has resulted in the Labour Party refusing to endorse me at the local elections on May 6th. I would like to acknowledge the support of a small group of candidates and supporters who are leading the fight both locally and nationally against actions of politicians from all parties in order to make Bristol and the country better.

I wouldn’t have got this far without them, as the discrimination I’ve faced as a candidate and a person within politics is emotionally breaking. However, I will continue to be as loud as possible and call out actions of councillors and MPs who are not transparent and are not working for the people who voted for them but are instead following the party line. I thank everyone who has supported me and were going to vote for me!

*Lee Starr-Elliott*

Rotten Comrades: Unfair Dismissal Appeals and Other Problems For Our Class

By The Dwarf

It is commonly recognised that appeals to government bodies very often help. As a rule of thumb I would say appealing loss of benefit or a parking ticket should give you around a fifty-fifty chance (should you have some sort of excuse), so you may as well have a punt. I say usually, that is if you appeal anywhere else but at Bristol City Council where properly mandated, democratically elected bodies no longer seem to be able to action their decisions. We’ve seen this recently with the special education needs appeals but we also see it in both Councillor and Mayoral inability to control council officers.

Controlling council officers is a political problem because, for reasons of national policy, council officers have the right to (effectively) water down possibly loony council decision-making. Sort of. Essentially. So it is quite hard for the Mayor to sack someone if there is a democratic decision to do something and nobody puts that into action properly. This decentralised style of administration trickles down further to organisations such as local authority controlled schools who have the right to do whatever they damn well please while being funded by us.

So, when a struggling single mother with a handful of a child (perhaps with profound learning difficulties) wins her appeal to have a better specialist education for her child, the school refuses to obey the decision, making the whole process a hopeless waste of time. What then happens, the appeals team try and gauge what the school will accept before giving up and making some sort of feeble, virtue-signalling non-decision.

“So, Brother D,” you might ask – “what has this got to do with the unions?” Well, I’m glad you asked. First off, this is about class, both for struggling mums and dads in an uncaring society, but also about having a functioning, municipal democracy. And secondly, this trickle down of irresponsibility and intransigence is affecting the staff too.

The appeals committee which hears dismissal appeals from our staff, has for some time given up trying to reinstate staff who are innocent or who are naughty but don’t quite deserve sacking; but do deserve to be given a kick up the backside before being told to get back to work. I’m not saying the odd one or two haven’t charmed their way out of the ‘long walk’, but the majority haven’t, in my and the other comrade’s experience. I used to be quite happy, back in the day, making the usual ritual protest while the member got the dressing down of their lives, taking comfort in the fact that we’ve managed to avoid another walk of shame to the dole office (or worse). But HR (you know the weaponised, smiling assassins I wrote about last time) now make it clear such actions are impossible.

Since then, the kindly old gentleman chairman, firebrand eco-warrior and old class warrior we normally get invited to address, offer the staff member a nice cup of tea, a bit of sympathy and a biscuit, before tapping the member on the shoulder and showing him the door. I preferred the kick up the arse and reinstatement.

More recently, the tea and biscuits have also gone.

Which makes the whole process a complete, bollocking, waste of time, because we then go off and win a tribunal. The point of the appeal is to set right unfair dismissals: they should consider the matter with open minds and bravely overrule, if that is the just decision, regardless of the pressure from HR. It does beg the question what sort of feedback auditing there is to the committee so that it can review how well it has done.

There is more to say about HR and its militant strategy of getting people out the door regardless of the settlement cost, and just how motivated they are in doing this, but I’ll leave it to next time.

Solidarity,
Brother D

“Useless and Underperforming” Comrades: A Weaponised Human Resources Team

By the Dwarf

I really feel I am getting somewhere now; I am enjoying my work and I feel valued by my employer. But not everyone is so lucky in the council because I’ve received a constant stream of leaks and complaints about the treatment dished out at the hands of HR and management. Over the last couple of years a trickle of shit has turned into a torrent.

I must admit, I’ve had to rewrite this article several times because a number of things I was gleefully writing up have been suddenly resolved, to the obvious relief of the staff affected. This is annoying. There are still a number of nasty problems in the pipeline, though, but I like to offer the other side an opportunity to really stick their necks out before writing them up. So, I’m going to take an overview of what’s going on (rather than a detailed expose) and hope to get across to you the experience of our staff, generally.

Anyway, I couldn’t at first understand what has been going on. Equalities used to be a high priority for management. It has recently stopped being so. My impression was that managers would find themselves with a tightened budget and would wonder to themselves whether or not staff really needed those visits to physio, modified duties, lighter duties, small breaks, time off to recover from operations, Dragon software, ramps over steps; that sort of thing. They, of course, took advice from HR.

HR used to give the advice that reasonable adjustments were a legal right, because the culture of equal opportunities used to be strong. Now they are replying that if it is a ‘need of the business’ they can justify taking it away (or not allow it) and HR will back the manager up. This is one of the reasons why it has been suggested that HR has become weaponised by someone ruthless at a medium to high level. This wrong advice is so widespread that it can only be a conscious strategy.

A new bit of advice from HR is that ‘you don’t have to change the job’ when designing reasonable adjustments and this is also incorrect. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (who are in charge of this) have a list of examples and several of them ‘change the job’. Total bollocks.

But another reason I know it is a conscious strategy is that they have been open about stopping certain things named as reasonable adjustments by the EHRC. And there is an element of incompetence in this in the sense that they were only so candid about what they were doing because they were so poorly informed.

One of these is medical redeployment. A person with a new disability (or a worsened one) and who is having trouble being productive even with reasonable adjustments (should they be able to get them at all), should be redeployed into a job where he can be productive, as an alternative to dismissal. Reasonable adjustments come first, obviously. HR have been open that they don’t intend to do this anymore and so have Occupational Health who have told us that they were told not to offer it. He who pays the piper calls the tune. But unfortunately that approach is illegal, and there is plenty of case law showing this.

The only time medical redeployment can be arranged (in HR’s view) is when there is a stage three sickness meeting, which means either the worker struggles on in a workplace that has been made artificially dangerous to them or they go off sick for a year. Hardly a sensible situation is it? Some just leave and join better employers.

Social Care is the worst culprit. They have had the nerve to tell us they have no temporary light duties even for people returning from life-saving operations. Of course they have light duties; do they think we are fucking stupid? If someone with the “eye of Sauron” needs to look anywhere, it needs to look there.

Anyway, this series of articles is not about HR; its long running theme is about how compromised public sector unions can become because of their relationships with politics. Well the good news is I’m upgrading them from ‘fucking corrupt” to “useless and underperforming” after a much improved couple of months. Pats on backs all round. There is still incredible timidity from some of our most senior union leaders but there have been the odd micro victory. All of which we have failed to communicate to our members.

One of the most entertaining events of the last week has been watching Unison refuse to be the Labour party’s bitch any longer. Somehow someone from Unison was allowed to oppose the Labour party (publicly) on its decision to amend a motion that called on the divestment of fossil fuels from the company pension. This was at full council. Their amendment, apparently, amended the words ‘divest’ to ‘look into divesting’, or so I was told. A Unison rep allegedly wasn’t happy at all and said so. Quite right!

Rotten Comrades: “Values and Behaviours”

Endeavouring to compete with other paragons of corporate responsibility, Bristol City Council now has a corporate philosophy and it calls it ‘Values and Behaviours’. Plastering them all over the inside of City Hall in ten foot high letters, the mayor is hoping some of it will rub off on his staff.

So what have we got? Do these values and behaviours reflect the council’s values or are they aspirations as to how council officers should behave? Well, if it was based on actual management behaviours we would expect back-stabbiness, passive aggression, brown-nosing and cronyism to be high up there in behaviours. Thankfully, the council has chosen aspirations instead.

Instead, we have ‘respect’, ‘dedicated’, ‘collaborative’ and various other reasonable aspirations and their sub-headings. Nobody could argue with any of them.

So what does this mean for the “scores” of workers who recently had their pay calculated incorrectly? This problem was identified a few months ago but still the shortfall has not been paid. The longer it takes, the less time will be available for a class-action claim.

No doubt this is the reason for the delay – perhaps management are hoping the staff affected run out of time to sue? Or perhaps management are hoping for a cheaper settlement and a few non-disclosure agreements? Is this what Marvin meant when he said ‘we are collaborative; we come together to reach shared goals’?

What does this mean for M, who as a caretaker in a residential tower block, raised safety concerns and was immediately moved to another building. How does this behaviour fit into the post-Grenfell Tower world? Victimisation? Or is this ‘ownership’ where we ‘accept personal accountability’?

Or what about R who was stood outside Temple Street having a crafty fag when Work-Place Support phoned the litter police, who promptly slapped a fine on him. All his own fault, perhaps, or was it the petty act of a spiteful, vindictive arm of management?

As Marvin says, ‘we show respect; we treat each other fairly.’

ROTTEN COMRADES: ‘REDUNDANCY PAY CUT SHOCKER’

by Less-Than-Pragmatic Dwarf

Another month, another shambles as Bristol City Council’s dodgy unions bend over backwards to help the employer. This time it’s redundancy pay that’s at risk but, instead of telling the employer to go “do one”, our comrades have, er, bravely thrown in the towel.

Citing the obvious line that if unions don’t go along with the cut, the employer will change their contracts anyway, our reps have come up with a piss-poor, face-saving formula that they will add “checks and balances” to the proposals.

Management would threaten unilateral changes to contracts, wouldn’t they? It’s the first – and oldest – trick in the book. Instead of saying “nice try sunshine!”, our not-so-bright colleagues scratched the top of their heads, fell over their clown shoes and surrendered.

One of the “checks and balances” reported to our Industrial Correspondent is an increase to voluntary severance payments. A windfall that, for ordinary workers, is as rare as hen’s teeth. Besides, what manager proposing a restructure will choose the more expensive, but more equitable, voluntary route to redundancy when it’s cheaper just to choose who to fire?

Back when they had experienced reps, the unions argued that it was better to let volunteers go than to fire people who are desperate to keep their jobs. This will strike a death knell for such an idea. Unions agreeing to this proposal will change the contracts of thousands of staff, even non-union members, which is actually worse than doing nothing.

If nothing is agreed and the proposals are imposed, at least one or two brave members of staff could challenge it. Perhaps with the help of an ambulance chasing lawyer or a union that has somehow managed not to compromise itself? Because, of course, redundancy pay is part of your contract and enforceable in law. “Checks and balances”, even placed in a policy, won’t be.

However, it’s not a done deal yet. Although the reps are agreeing it in principle, the unions will need to consult with their members (watch out for some frighteningly Orwellian fact distortion in your inbox). They want the effects of this not to kick in for a couple of years. But they intend to agree it now and tie it down in such a way that nobody can claim, in say three years’ time, that it was a surprise.

It’s not just Unison this time, the blame lies with Unite and GMB as well. They’re all complicit in this. If you catch anyone from the unions defending or promoting these proposals, in the Counts Louse or elsewhere, do yourself a favour: make them a dunce’s cap to wear and ask them to resign.