This isn’t a tale from time of Dickens. This is no Victorian workhouse. This is modern day Britain

20th November, 2012 5:28 pm

Listen to any Tory minister speak about business and worker’s rights, and you know it’ll only be a matter of time before they launch an attack – sometimes coded, sometimes blatant – on worker’s rights. Red tape, they will argue, is making life difficult for businesses. That’s despite Britain having the weakest worker’s rights in Europe.

The Tories would like to see worker’s giving up what few rights they do have in return for shares in the company, but that could be disastrous.

Consider the following example.

Widespread accusations of blacklisting, racial abuse, bullying and extortion, with allegations that workers were required to provide gold in return for extended holidays or overtime.

But this isn’t a tale from time of Dickens. This is no Victorian workhouse. This is modern day Britain.

In recent years, 150 workers, (mainly Asian women of Goan heritage); have alleged that they were subject to racial abuse, bullying, and extortion by staff at Carillion. They are employed as cleaners, catering workers and ancilliary staff at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. These people are the backbone of the NHS – keeping wards clean and delivering meals to patients.

Yet these same people have claimed that they were subject to numerous attacks on their rights. Low paid workers have signed statements that claim they were asked for up to £1000 by their supervisors – a huge sum at the best of times. Another worker reported being told:

“I am the manager and I can sack you and if you give me gold I will let you keep your job.”

It reads like something from the employment rights dark ages.

And yet, despite Carillion accepting that incidents of gift giving for favours from managers took place, their reaction was to discipline several of the whistle-blowers who came forward to give evidence against supervisors.

Despite the allegations, evidence and investigation findings, nobody has been suspended. Meanwhile, Carillion still has a number of lucrative contracts, pulling in money – directly or indirectly – from the public purse.

No amount of so called “red tape” has so far protected these vulnerable, poorly paid workers from the exploitation, abuse and extortion in the workplace they believe they’ve been subjected to. And all of this has taken place despite the “protection” of our current worker’s rights legislation.

Tonight, workers from Carillion will be in Parliament with the GMB (their union) to call for an end to the treatment that has plagued the staff in Swindon. With the current government in power, it seems unlikely that their voices will be heard.

But next time a member of this government stands up in parliament, or elsewhere, and rages against the red tape and worker’s rights that are holding back British business, remember the Carillion workers. And remember that the same company are still making money from your taxes.

“Blacklisting, racial abuse, bullying, extortion – a modern workplace at Carillion, takes place tonight”, 6pm in the Grand Committee Hall, in Parliament. Speakers include A Carillion Worker, Pragna Petal -Southall Black Sisters, Dave Smith – Blacklisted worker and Frank Doran MP

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

    Mark, I see plenty of claims which, if true, are shocking and appalling. I do not, however, see anything from the links you provide which suggest that the police have investigated and certainly nothing suggesting they have found sufficient evidence to prosecute, as one would expect given the apparent clarity of criminal intent.

    I therefore find myself torn between hoping it is true so that the victims can find justice, and hoping that it is false to spare the blushes of the police.

    In either event it must be made clear that these remain allegations; that no-one (not even a large company) can flout the law; but for balance here we must also be clear that no-one (not even a large company) should be judged without due investigation and trial: the Lord McAlpine saga has clearly brought that point home, and I urge you to temper your editorial line accordingly.

    Whether true or false it is clear that there need to be very serious repercussions to these issues, to match the nature of the allegations.

  • charles.ward

    From the Guardian article:

    “When staff complained of the practice as early as 2007 …”

    Clearly the Tories have been using their time machine to oppress the workers again!

  • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

    I’m currently reading an account of undocumented Chinese immigrants who work in the UK: Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour, by Hsiao-Hung Pai (2008).

    It is a truly shocking account of the unimaginable exploitation experienced by hundreds of thousands of desperate people working in the UK’s shadow economy – to the benefit of unscrupulous, opportunistic agencies, employers and even, through the agricultural supply chain, high-street supermarkets.

    As can be seen from the publication date – this was happening under a Labour government. Sadly I’m not surprised that the needs of the most cruelly exploited were ignored by Labour politicians when they were in a position to do something about it.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    If this is true, it is an awful abuse, seems to me as a non-legal person to be clearly criminal behaviour, and something there are already laws to use in prosecution.

    But I am slightly disturbed, particularly with the recent news of “mob justice” on Twitter and Lord MacAlpine. Here we have a set of very serious allegations against a company, a “debate” hosted in Parliament itself, the terms of the debate”Blacklisting, racial abuse, bullying, extortion – a modern workplace at Carillion” seem hardly balanced, the speakers’ list as published seems completely lop-sided. You have to wonder if Carillion have been invited to respond, and more widely, if this article is wise for LL to publish.

    If the allegations turn out to be untrue, it will be very expensive indeed for those who publicised them (I do not include LL in that – reporting of a public event is surely OK).

  • Dave Postles
  • Dave Postles
  • Dave Postles
    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      If you want to make a point, why not wait until there is an article that is even vaguely associated with your point? You relentlessly try to shoe-horn in your points to almost anything that LL publish, relevant or not. You did just that a couple of days ago with some nonsense about your UK Uncut protests about Starbucks in the comments on the very serious topic of mental health.

      No doubt you will decry my “illiberal” viewpoint, and proclaim your rights to say anything you want. But it does look like hijacking to normal people.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      If you want to make a point, why not wait until there is an article that is even vaguely associated with your point? You relentlessly try to shoe-horn in your points to almost anything that LL publish, relevant or not. You did just that a couple of days ago with some nonsense about your UK Uncut protests about Starbucks in the comments on the very serious topic of mental health.

      No doubt you will decry my “illiberal” viewpoint, and proclaim your rights to say anything you want. But it does look like hijacking to normal people.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      If you want to make a point, why not wait until there is an article that is even vaguely associated with your point? You relentlessly try to shoe-horn in your points to almost anything that LL publish, relevant or not. You did just that a couple of days ago with some nonsense about your UK Uncut protests about Starbucks in the comments on the very serious topic of mental health.

      No doubt you will decry my “illiberal” viewpoint, and proclaim your rights to say anything you want. But it does look like hijacking to normal people.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      If you want to make a point, why not wait until there is an article that is even vaguely associated with your point? You relentlessly try to shoe-horn in your points to almost anything that LL publish, relevant or not. You did just that a couple of days ago with some nonsense about your UK Uncut protests about Starbucks in the comments on the very serious topic of mental health.

      No doubt you will decry my “illiberal” viewpoint, and proclaim your rights to say anything you want. But it does look like hijacking to normal people.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      If you want to make a point, why not wait until there is an article that is even vaguely associated with your point? You relentlessly try to shoe-horn in your points to almost anything that LL publish, relevant or not. You did just that a couple of days ago with some nonsense about your UK Uncut protests about Starbucks in the comments on the very serious topic of mental health.

      No doubt you will decry my “illiberal” viewpoint, and proclaim your rights to say anything you want. But it does look like hijacking to normal people.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    This is a tale that I would never had thought could happen in modern Britain. The Conservative Party that I knew of when I was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s was nowhere near as bad as this – not that I liked them then either.

    The current economic policy seems to me to be an exercise in using the deficit as a cover to strip out rights of working people from working and middle classes in order to make a super-rich group even richer. The whole “cutting red tape” thing is basically saying that in order to compete with third world economies that the Tories want to create a third world economy out of the UK.

    Labour should be screaming about this until everyone has heard about it.
    Not only are these people been ruthlessly ripped off, but this type of operation is destroying proper decent jobs.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      This is correct. The whole austerity agenda is designed to cheapen labour costs and employment protection across the West so we can at least attempt to compete with China.

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