Council maintenance staff strike over manager bullying allegations

UCATT-logo_0Around 100 council workers at South Ayrshire Council have started a week-long strike over allegations that a manager had bullied and intimidated staff.

The striking staff, all employed within the council’s property and maintenance department, claim a manager was allowed to remain in his post despite being the subject of dozens of complaints.

Construction union UCATT and Unite say the dispute has been brewing since August 2013 and concerns the conduct of the council’s property maintenance manager William Andrew. There have been 37 separate complaints made against Mr Andrew concerning bullying, victimisation, goading and intimidation.

The ballots for industrial action which saw a turnout of over 70 for both unions were conducted after the council’s internal grievance procedure was exhausted. An investigation containing almost 1000 pages resulted in the grievance being upheld in part and recommended that Mr Andrew attend a management course and be monitored for a three month period. A subsequent appeal was rejected by a panel of elected members. Mr Andrew has remained in post throughout the investigation despite the trade unions request that Mr Andrew be suspended and that the complaints should be dealt with under the council’s disciplinary procedures.

Paul Bennett, regional organiser for UCATT Scotland, said: “Had the tables been reversed and the complaint was made against one of our craft workers, they would have been suspended. The fact that Mr Andrew remained in post throughout restricted the investigation.”

During the investigation the unions had honoured an agreement that they would not publicly discuss the matter via radio or press but the council breached this agreement by publishing the industrial action ballot on their website.

Paul Bennett stated that he and his colleague from Unite have endeavoured to avoid this action and used every avenue available to the unions including ACAS conciliation. A meeting was set for conciliation where the unions explained the case during a 45 minute session with Robert Young, ACAS conciliator however, the council took no more than 4 minutes to draw a close to conciliation.

Mr Bennett added: “This concerns us as it would suggest that the council are willing to protect a bully.”

Harry Frew, regional secretary for UCATT Scotland, said: “Our workers are taking strike action as a last resort as the council has totally failed to deal with very serious issues that are making their working lives intolerable.”

Mr Frew added: “Bullying, victimisation and intimidation is never acceptable in any workplace and UCATT will fully support any of our members who are facing these problems at work.”

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