Tag Archives: HR

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 comrades’ 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

DIVERSITY JOY

WHISTLING IN THE WIND

Just months after four black whistleblowers stepped up to expose A CULTURE OF ENDEMIC RACIST BULLYING AT BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL that was being swept under the carpet by senior bosses and the HR department, Bristol City Council has won a diversity award for HR!

It says here that “The Public Services People Management Association (PPMA) awards are the highest-profile celebration of Human Resources and Organisational Development workers across the public sector,” and they AWARDED Bristol City Council their ‘Best Diversity Programme Award’ for their ‘Stepping Up Programme’ for managers.

Who says institutional racism doesn’t pay?

“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!

WEST WING WATCH

west wing ii

Efforts by the Reverend Rees and his point man ‘Slo’ Kevin Slocombe to create their own new season of THE WEST WING up on the third floor of the Counts Louse brings predictable results.

Having EXPANDED the Mayoral Office budget to the best part of £1MILLION A YEAR and styled themselves as fast talking power dressing power players who get things done, their efforts to slickly command and control a council of 7,000 employees SPENDING A BUDGET OF A BILLION is more Jedward than Jed Bartlet.

The latest MAYORAL FAILURE finds the Reverend unable to get a simple ‘corrective’ brass plaque attached to the statue of Colston in the Centre. This might be because following the original mayoral decree for a plaque, there was NO MEANS to communicate back to the Mayor or his team what was going on with a project easily highjacked by the Merchant Venturers from council officers.

Similar problems have haunted the Reverend’s response to institutional racism at the council where the HR officers and managers responsible for the problem have filled any MANAGEMENT VACUUM by stepping in to solve their own problem to suit themselves.

The most recent fiasco followed the removal of valuable 1930s street lamps from south Bristol to leafy Stoke Bishop. “THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN,” insisted Slo Kev on Twitter. “Any street lamps removed are used for spare parts only,” he explained. Alas, within minutes of Slo Kev’s claim, a photo appeared on Twitter of a newly installed street lamp from south Bristol in Stoke Bishop!

The obvious solution of appointing one of 40-odd Labour councillors to oversee something like the plaque project through to completion has been OVERLOOKED by both the Reverend and Slo Kev. Both naively believing they can achieve anything at the council, no matter how minor, by SWAGGERING COMMAND or LENGTHY PRESS RELEASE fired out from the third floor executive suite.

In reality simple projects are FAILING and poor decisions are MULTIPLYING due to the Reverend’s West Wing fantasy. There’s a bottleneck at the top of the council. Too many issues for too few mayoral staff to cope with and council officers end up running the show with little oversight. Labour councillors, meanwhile, the natural workforce to force Labour policy through a recalcitrant council, hang about IDLE, BORED and IGNORED.

When will the Reverend figure out how to run his council?

WHISTLING IN THE WIND

WHISTLING IN THE WIND

Council bosses continue to deliver a pile of NONSENSICAL CRAP instead of working WHISTLEBLOWING ARRANGEMENTS for their staff.

Delivering their ‘Annual Review of Whistleblowing Arrangements’ to the Audit Committee, bosses trumpeted to councillors that their review included “a survey of 100 CITY COUNCIL EMPLOYEES“.

Although the sheepish bosses went on to admit “the response rate to the survey was limited with only 22 RESPONSES RECEIVED“. This means around 0.3 per cent of council staff were actually surveyed, which seems a rather small amount to be building a working policy around.

The information gathered from the small amount of staff brave enough to respond was, however, deeply worrying. As staff admitted they have not reported concerns due to “FEAR OF REPRISAL” and “CONCERN THAT NOTHING WOULD BE DONE.”

Audit bosses response to this, supported by the city council’s hapless HR department, was to advise the Audit Committee that they needed to “REINFORCE THE MESSAGE“. Even though “the message” coming through to staff appears to be “don’t you dare blow the whistle at Bristol City Council”

After discussing the matter for a while, councillors concluded that their HR department needed to take responsibility for “REINFORCING THE MESSAGE” so that staff understood that whistleblowers have legal protections and any allegations of malpractice are taken seriously (honest guv, ed).

An odd decision since their current Director of HR and Workforce, John “Bedwetter” Walsh, appointed last year, was working as a senior HR consultant in Wakefield in 2006 when six social workers were SUMMARILY DISMISSED for trying to reveal serious children’s SAFEGUARDING CONCERNS.

The concerns were regarding children living in care homes run by Wakefield Council who were being exposed to DRUGS and were at risk of SEXUAL EXPLOITATION. Within a month of making their complaints in January 2006, the whistleblowing workers were FIRED. Wakefield Council then tried to get the six workers placed on a government blacklist usually reserved for SEX OFFENDERS.

Bedwetter scarpered from Wakefield in March 2006, before the fallout from the affair, which cost the council £1 MILLION in an out of court settlement to the exonerated social workers. There was also red faces all round at the council when it publicly emerged that they had sought to protect potential CHILD ABUSERS at the expense of WHISTLEBLOWING SOCIAL WORKERS.

Is Bedwetter Walsh really the best person Bristol City Council can find to promote a better deal for whistleblowers?


Rotten Comrades: Disability, Part One By the Dwarf

I had no idea that two weeks after my last article about the (bad) experience of (quite a few) black and ethnic minority staff that the council would hold a ceremony celebrating the council’s, er, success in supporting people from marginalised backgrounds (otherwise known as the ‘Stepping Up’ program). I might not have helped.

So it is with that recognition that I am hoping that the council aren’t about to announce some sort of ceremony celebrating the Council’s success in supporting people with disabilities, because today – hold on to your hats – I have quite a few things to say about how the Council treats its disabled staff, too.

The Council is bad on disability. Its worst offender is Adult Social Care (the “caring” profession), but other departments get a dishonourable mention as well. It’s not always the manager’s fault, because sometimes they want to help their staff, but pressure from more senior managers and woeful advice from HR makes it inevitable that staff don’t get the help they need.

Let’s be clear about this: the employer MUST make reasonable adjustments to help disabled staff overcome organisational, operational and physical obstacles. The Council – or at least its managers – treat any adjustment that requires them spending any of their budget on it, as unreasonable, which is quite wrong.

So what happens is that a person who has deteriorated in physical or mental ability takes some time off – perhaps they have an operation or a spell recovering from a breakdown of some kind. They consult their doctor who says, ‘I’ll write you a fit note saying you must have light duties. Here you go, they have to give it to you – it’s the Equality Act 2010.’

Except, when that person does return to work they get told: ‘we don’t have light duties.’ So the staff member goes back on the sick. They don’t have any choice, they have a disability, they aren’t as able as they were before.

A few months later, the sick pay has run out, management have popped round twice and very nicely, over a cup of tea and a digestive, given you a level one and then a level two ‘notice of unacceptable attendance’ and you have to go back to work or face ruin. The HR adviser was a very nice woman who nodded whenever you spoke and frowned in all the right places.

That HR adviser is the one who will tell you, when you get back, that because of ‘the needs of the business’ there are no light duties and that we will now need to give you a ‘stage three final review of attendance’. You reply that there is always paperwork that needs doing, or perhaps it is just visiting people’s homes that you can’t do anymore and perhaps you could do triage instead? And why are you giving me a stage three when I have done what you wanted and come back to work? But the answer is no and the stage three is just policy.

One of three things happen next: you go back to work on their terms and have a fall; you go back on the sick and they hold the stage three in your absence, dismissing you; or you phone the union and try and get what is supposed to be an ethical employer to accept its responsibilities.

There is another pitfall that unwary staff fall into that the employer is only too happy to lay. If there are no adjustments that can reasonably be done – and scepticism would be my default position on this – then medical redeployment is a reasonable adjustment. What if there are no suitable jobs? What if I get no help? Well, at the end of the redeployment, if you haven’t found another job you are then on the dole.

What sort of impairments are we talking? Cancer, musculo-skeletal injuries, fibromyalgia, depression, macular degeneration – those sorts of things. All serious and all debilitating unless you get the support you need to work with less pain; happy and productive in your occupation. You may have seen them struggling their way around City Hall, terrified of being managed out of the business.

It didn’t use to be like this. In the old days, if you had seen better days your manager would’ve done his best to look after you. Something bitter and hard-hearted has happened to the Council.

SOME STAFF DO ‘AVE ‘EM

Spencer

The ever-resourceful Human Resources Department of Bristol City Council has come up with a new wheeze to SCREW its lowest paid workers.

James “Betty” Brereton, masquerading under the poncey job title ‘People and Culture Manager‘, wrote out to low paid staff who work term times only in May announcing he has been “checking the calculations we use to work out pay”. And lo and behold! He’s discovered some “ERRORS“.

“Any overpayment or underpayment in April will be added to or DEDUCTED from your pay in May,” Brereton cheerily announced to people taking home small sums of money who thought the small increase in their pay packet in April might be their pay rise!

Unfortunately not. Instead money was REMOVED from pay packets a few weeks later at the end of May with NO REGARD for anyone having to manage on a tight budget or anyone wishing to know exactly what their monthly income from Bristol City Council might actually be.

Betty Brereton’s letter in May then added, “we will work out if there has been an overpayment or underpayment IN THE PAST. Where there has, we will negotiate with the trade unions on how we deal with this. We will then be in touch with you.”

In other words, Bristol City Council will be deducting EVEN MORE MONEY from the pay packets of the low paid at undisclosed some point in the future with little notice or explanation.

How are workers on low incomes supposed to plan their finances like this?

GOTCHA! YOU NAME ‘EM, WE SHAME ‘EM!

All was not well in the department of endless lies and cover-ups run by Bristol City Council housing boss GILLIAN “Irma Grese” DOUGLAS after our last issue.

We hear Ms Grese was less than pleased at our REVELATION that her department was slyly signing off eviction threats to homeless families who had fallen behind on a dodgy service charges demanded by Grese’s favoured landlord for the city’s most vulnerable – Connolly & Callaghan (Bristolian 40).

We’re reliably informed that an especially sour-faced Grese marched long suffering managers and supervisors into a meeting room and began waving a copy of The BRISTOLIAN above her head while screeching, “THERE’S BEEN A LEAK, THERE’S BEEN A LEAK.”

The scene, we’re assured, was “completely and utterly hilarious and it was hard to keep a straight face as this ludicrous Scottish banshee whined her dismal song of the thoroughly EXPOSED.”

Meanwhile, over in HR, President Assad look-a-like, HR Director Mark “BASHAR” Williams has been telling anyone who will listen (which isn’t many) that, “The BRISTOLIAN has been giving me sleepless nights.”

No, we’ve no idea why either. But if your caring, sharing BRISTOLIAN is inducing nervous breakdowns in pointless Bristol City Council middle managers, who are we to complain?

 Heard a boss whinging about The BRISTOLIAN? Get in touch.

REVEREND BRINGS IN THE THOUGHT POLICE

What the fuck is going on with the Bristol Labour Party Members Group on Facebook? You may recall that back in November material from this private Labour members-only Facebook page appeared on the Operation Black Vote website plastered with the headline ‘LABOUR PARTY MUST EXPEL BRISTOL’S RACIST MEMBERS’ under the byline of the Reverend’s good friend Simon Woolley “Wanker”.

That episode had all the characteristics of a shameless attempt by the Reverend and his small gang of desperate right wing Labour supporters to TARGET Corbynites in his local party and get them expelled from the party on trumped up charges of racism. Alas, the whole POORLY EXECUTED PLOT collapsed when a large majority of the local Labour Party and the city at large piped up and effectively told Rees to stop being a prick.

However, the Reverend and his supporters still seem unhealthily obsessed with this Facebook group. Now we learn that Labour members unknown have granted the city council’s HR Department FULL ACCESS to this Facebook page so that they can try to target any members of their staff who happen to be in the Labour Party and supporting Corbyn.

The city council’s HR honchos, not being ones to pass up a golden opportunity to create a MONUMENTAL FUCK-UP, have, we’re told, even gone to the expense of procuring a private company to do their dubious spying for them and start disciplining staff for, er, being in the Labour Party!

All slightly odd, as being a member of the Labour Party is not usually a disciplinary offence. Since when have teachers, social workers and street cleaners been BANNED from being in the LABOUR PARTY? Indeed our friend with a copy of Butterworths Employment Law Handbook (25th edition) assures us such disciplinary actions have “LITTLE PROSPECT OF SUCCESS“. Not least for obstructing council staff’s Article 11 rights under the Human Rights Act to Freedom of Assembly.

But perhaps the bigger question is why is the Reverend handing large sums of PUBLIC MONEY and resources to a private sector firm to target his opponents in the Labour Party? Is this a lawful use of public money?

Should the Local Government Ombudsman be taking a look at this?

MEET THE UNION TRYING TO CON ITS MEMBERS

With all the class and integrity of a sleazy payday loan company, the Bristol Branch of Unison, which represents council workers, is BALLOTING its members.

They’re asking their members whether they want to accept the Reverend’s MEAN-SPIRITED changes to their terms and conditions. According to the council, the key changes the Reverend wants are to:

“Update the Council’s Managing Change Policy to strengthen the provisions in relation to redeployment and re-training and so reduce the need for staff to leave the Council on voluntary or compulsory redundancy. As part of these reforms, the maximum period of pay protection will be REDUCED from TWO YEARS to 12 MONTHS and the redundancy scheme will be REDUCED from TWICE to 1.5 TIMES the statutory minimum.”

However, on Unison’s website, where they’re supposed to communicate these proposals to their members and ask them to vote on them, the text has been SEVERELY CUT to say:

“Update the Council’s Managing Change Policy to strengthen the provisions in relation to redeployment and re-training and so reduce the need for staff to leave the Council on voluntary or compulsory redundancy.”

How convenient for the Reverend. The union best known for being a permanent fixture up his rectum has REMOVED the most controversial features of his proposals – and information that could cost their members a lot of money – and asked them to vote on a bland and vague proposal instead.

Unison members, don’t fall for this sleazy trade union/Labour Party STITCH-UP! Vote NO to the changes. All it will do is COST YOU MONEY – for NOTHING in return – if you get made redundant, which is increasingly likely as the Reverend  continues to deliver even more Tory cuts over the next year.

Unison members can vote here (while anyone else can view the union’s disgraceful sharp practice for themselves): http://www.unisonbristol.org.uk/bcc-consultation-proposed-changes-to-redundancy-and-pay-protection/