FIFTY Swindon striking hospital workers came down to London by coach last Tuesday to lobby the Headquarters of their employer Carillion demanding an end to bullying, harassment and discrimination.
The delegation of workers and union reps marched up the front steps of the main entrance of the building where they demanded to see a Carillion representative.
The workers shouted: ‘What do we want? Respect at work!’
Carillion is the company that employs the workers as kitchen staff and cleaners at Swindon Great Western hospital.
There have been 109 workers who have signed a collective grievance against the company for allegations of bullying in the workplace.
While the coach load of Swindon hospital workers were lobbying Carillion in London there was a mass picket of the other 83 workers outside Swindon Great Western hospital.
Mark Wilkinson the GMB officer for Chessington joined the London Lobby, he said: ‘I have come down to support my colleagues. Corillian’s attitude towards their work-force is old fashioned and imperialistic.
‘All the staff feel that they have been victims of harassment and bullying.
‘We hope we will not have to take further action but if necessary we will.’
Maria Fernandes who works at Swindon hospital said: ‘If we go off sick even for just a day they send us a letter saying that if we continue to take any more days off sick then we will get the sack.’
Fellow worker Carmina Fernandes said: ‘We will strike until they treat us with respect, there is no respect the way they treat us.
‘They are always shouting at us and any small mistake we make they give us disciplinaries.’
Outside the London Carillion headquarters Andy Newham, the GMB branch secretary for Wiltshire and Swindon GMB shouted on the megaphone up to the offices which are on the eight floor: ‘Carillion come down and talk to us, we want a representative to answer to these allegations of bullying.
‘We want answers, why have these workers been subjected to bullying, harassment and discrimination!’
Justin Bowden the GMB National officer said: ‘On Monday we had crisis talks with Carillion to try and avert Tuesday’s strike but the talks broke down because it would appear that Carillion are in complete denial.
‘There is a culture of bullying and discrimination and we have explained to them that you do not get 132 people taking strike action and loosing their pay unless there is a problem.
‘The rest of the work-force are outside the hospital in Swindon, there are further days of strike action planned.
‘The GMB will continue to support this for as long as it takes to ensure that these workers get the respect, dignity and working environment they deserve.
‘The union has set up a £100,000 strike fund, so in that sense that speaks for itself in terms of GMB support.’
Carole Vallelly the GMB regional officer who is organising the strike said: ‘We began this struggle with a collective grievance with 109 signatures on it.
‘We are talking about allegations of “racial” and “religious” discrimination.
‘There are allegations that workers are being shouted at and “sworn” at.
‘During the course of the investigations there have been many other allegations that cannot be discussed as we are bringing cases against Carillion and are informing the police.
‘Over the weekend Christine Woods, the supervisor at the centre of the collective grievance has resigned.
‘Carillion said that they accepted her resignation with “great reluctance”.’
Olga Fernandes, Swindon Hospital branch GMB rep and worker at Swindon hospital said: ‘Our members are facing problems about holidays and about shifts and the managers have no respect for us.
‘Our job is low paid and they are not paying us properly.
‘They have sacked so many of my colleagues. We work very hard for the hospital and we give a good service.
‘We are giving a five star service and all we are demanding is respect.’
A GMB statement said: ‘Carillion have made no proper move to deal with bullying, harassment and discrimination despite being left in no doubts about the determination of their staff to get the problems dealt with.
‘At the talks on Monday 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.
‘GMB gave notice to Carillion of three further days of strike action on Monday 27th, Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th February. GMB also advised Carillion that the union was filing discrimination claims on behalf of the members at the Employment Tribunal.
‘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.
‘The GMB members 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.
‘GMB submitted a formal complaint by 109 staff over allegations of bullying in December.
‘Over the last month over 90 staff members have given evidence of terrible bullying. The manager at the heart of the bullying allegations has now left Carillion.
‘GMB has also written to employment agencies drawing their attention to the law relating to agency workers during strikes.’