RMT calls for disinvestment from Semperian PPP

Great Western Hospital ancillary staff on strike against bullying. Carillion is a contractor for Semperian PPP
Great Western Hospital ancillary staff on strike against bullying. Carillion is a contractor for Semperian PPP

REPRESENTATIVES of the tube union RMT on the London Transport pension fund have called for disinvestment from Semperian PPP after it emerged that one of their subcontractors on the Great Western Hospital PFI contract in Swindon, Carillion, has been involved in a long-running dispute with sister union GMB over racial abuse, bullying and extortion.

As a result of the issue being raised at the fund’s trustees meeting by RMT Assistant General Secretary Pat Sikorski on Tuesday July 10, the union has been promised a full investigation into the activities of Semperian and its sub-contractors Carillion at the GWH.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: ‘We welcome the development of a full investigation by the London Transport Pension Fund into Semperian and its contractors, and the company should be fully aware that if the activities reported to us by the GMB at the Great Western Hospital continue then we will press the case for disinvestment.

‘This trade union knows all about the likes of PPP/PFI outfits like Semperian and their sub-contractors Carillion.

‘However, when we were approached by our sister union GMB, even we were shocked at the catalogue of abusive and bullying behaviour by Carillion that has led to the dispute at the Great Western Hospital involving cleaners, catering workers and other ancillary staff.

‘RMT is clear that a company with this kind of track record has no place in the pensions portfolio of our members and that is the point that we have made, and will continue to make, at meetings of the London Transport Pension Fund.’

GMB welcomed the statement from the RMT calling for action over Semperian’s role in the nine months dispute between GMB and Carillion at Swindon Great Western Hospital.

The GMB responded: ‘On the eve of their 21st day of strike action our members at Swindon Hospital will be delighted by this proud action from RMT showing that solidarity is better than a banker’s bonus.

‘150 GMB members are to take their 21st day of strike action on July 15.

‘This latest day of strike action arises because, instead of dealing with the allegations of shakedowns and corruption by Carillion managers that their own second investigation found, the company has chosen instead to take disciplinary action against 10 of the whistleblowers who were the victims of ‘gold for employment rights’ and racism.

‘These workers have already taken 20 days of strike action over the persistent failure of the Carillion management to deal with evidence of bribery and corruption on the contract which has been covered up for some years.

‘The senior Carillion HR manager at Swindon, Liz Keates, was involved in the blacklisting by Carillion of 224 workers across the UK. Carillion used the blacklist register nearly 15,000 times over 4 years.

‘A culture of corporate bullying is endemic, systemic and deep rooted in Carillion, demonstrating that the way GMB members were being victimised at Swindon was not out of character with the company culture.’

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said: ‘The dispute at Swindon Hospital is a simple matter of right and wrong. If Semperian don’t already know about the shameless activities and cover up, happening under their roof for years, then they may be in for a shock.

‘Carillion, Semperian and their mates seem to think they are safe in their ivory towers and that the world outside their corporate bubble doesn’t care about allegations of racial abuse, bullying and extortion. They are wrong and their arrogant indifference may cost them dear in the future.

‘By putting Semperian on notice, RMT has shown how decent people know the difference between right and wrong and that when it comes to where their pension is invested, or where public money is being spent, there are standards of behaviour that are not acceptable to working people.

‘Illegal corporate bullying is endemic, systemic and deep-rooted in Carillion and Semperian would do well to rein Carillion in while they are still able to do so.

‘Alternatively they might want to consider sending them to be exorcised at the earliest opportunity.’

The GMB members at Carillion work as porters and housekeepers in catering and cleaning and other support roles at the hospital.

The industrial action only involves GMB members who work for Carillion. It does not involve the more than 200 GMB members who work for the NHS Trust or the ambulance service at the Great Western Hospital.

In total, GMB members have taken 20 days of strike action so far. They took part in 24-hour stoppages on February 14, 21 and 23 over bullying, harassment and discrimination by local Carillion management.

These were followed by three further days of strike action on February 27, 28 and 29. There were five days of strike action between March 8th & 12. A further seven-day strike took place between March 17 and March 23.

There was a march and rally in Swindon on March 17. The 19th day of strike action took place on May 16. There was also a public meeting in Swindon on that date.

There was the 20th day of strike action on June 11 when the strikers visited GMB Congress in Brighton.

In June 2012 these GMB members learned that a second investigation by Carillion into complaints by members found evidence of bribery and shakedowns on the contract. Written reports of the second investigation into GMB members’ grievances was circulated to members, which also admitted to racism, bullying and intimidation.

Carillion has not invited GMB to discuss the outcome of the second investigation. Instead, the company have issued disciplinary proceedings against 10 GMB members who are whistleblowers and the victims of the bullying and ‘gold for employment rights’.

The dates for the disciplinary hearings have yet to be set.

GMB members voted overwhelmingly for strike action in protest against bullying and discrimination at the hospital. GMB members are demanding that Carillion management act to stop the culture of bullying on the contract and for an end to discrimination in the application of pay and conditions on the contract.

GMB submitted a formal complaint by 109 staff over allegations of bullying in December. During the early months of 2012, 90 staff members have given evidence of terrible bullying.

The manager at the heart of the bullying allegations has now left Carillion. At talks in February 2012, Carillion said that they had reluctantly accepted the resignation of the manager at the centre of the dispute but that they were not prepared to uphold any of the grievances of the staff.

As a consequence, GMB filed discrimination claims on behalf of the members at the Employment Tribunal. Semperian has also been joined to these tribunal cases.