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

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