Workers in Cardiff Council’s Waste Department have voted to strike for 4 weeks following allegations of bullying, intimidation, and negligent behaviour on the part of managers.
I visited the picket line on Lamby Way to talk to Unite strikers. None wanted to be named so I have used aliases to protect their identity.
The culture of bullying began with a change of management structure and, according to the strikers, when a decidedly anti-union environment was created. A council spokesperson denied that this was the case saying only that the new management had been brought in from the private sector to increase efficiency.
Alan McCarthy, Regional Officer for Unite, spoke to me and insists that a culture of abuse exists within the Council with bullying across all departments, in particular waste management. McCarthy informed me of reported instances of supervisors forcing workers to work whilst ill and verbalised bullying. He informed me that he’d been informed by a striker that a manager had told a Unite member that he should be “drinking p***” and not water whilst on the picket line.
The council commissioned its own report and informed the Union that, “this investigation found no evidence whatsoever of bullying behaviour”. McCarthy takes a different view telling me, “I’ve never seen any workplace, anywhere, where bullying does not exist whatsoever…” The Council has refused Freedom of Information requests by members of the Union to see the report.
At Lamby Way all the pickets I spoke to alleged systemic abuse of workers.
Steven stated that he had been informed by management that any complaints made were mute to the point that a manager informed him that, “complaints start at that gate (referring to the entrance to the recycling centre) and don’t go any further.”
The alleged bullying included incidents of verbal abuse, forcing workers to work whilst ill and denial of holidays. Striker Patrick informed me that for the past five years he had been unable to book holiday leave despite putting in requests well in advance. Patrick further told me that after sustaining a serious injury at work he had to return from sick leave after five days, well before his injuries healed.
The leader of Cardiff Council, Huw Thomas, did not wish to be interviewed, but Councillor Leonora Thomson told me, “It’s really regrettable it’s been going on for so long but I would say that the Leader of The Council, and his colleagues, are working really hard to resolve it.”
The pickets were far from convinced that Labour had their best interests at heart. Steven put it like this: “We’re supposed to be pro-Labour because they are pro-union. But, where’s Labour?” Steven gestured behind him at the ten pickets who had received no public support from a single Labour councillor.
From the pickets perspective Thomas’s Labour Party seems indifferent to the plight of a group of workers who are alleging bullying. On the council’s education website their bullying policy education, defines bullying as, “
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