South Tyneside Council Response to GMB Communication - 23/01/24
GMB issued a communication via social media on Monday 22 January 2024 in relation to the ongoing industrial action and investigation outcome. The contents of this communication are misleading and South Tyneside Council would like to clarify a number of matters raised and set out our position. The residents of South Tyneside deserve to know the facts.
Any grievance like the one raised in Waste Services is treated as confidential for the benefit of all parties involved and the council has made every effort to respect that process. However, communication such as GMB's recent statement risks undermining internal processes such as any appeal, which should be considered without external pressure on those who are required to consider them.
The Council made it clear to Trade Unions upon the sharing of the outcome report that if any of the contents of that report were shared publicly, there was a potential for the appeal process to be compromised. The Council thought that this was well understood by all parties. The GMB's actions may put at risk the viability of any appeal process.
To date, the Council has held back from commenting in detail to ensure that the full and thorough investigation was not prejudiced in any way. However, the Council is now being placed in a position where it has taken the decision to reluctantly respond to the inaccurate statements made by the GMB. Whilst the council has tried to observe the process, it cannot continue to ignore the inaccurate information being put into the public domain without correction.
These are the facts:
- The original collective grievance, submitted in June 2023, did not include any allegations of bullying and mismanagement. The collective grievance specifically cited finishing on time, size of rounds and said that it sought consistency in the way leave was allocated.
- The Council delivered on the promise to conduct an independent investigation as part of its 'Resolving Issues at Work Policy'. This took place in Autumn 2023 and less than one fifth of waste operatives that submitted concerns (10/52) chose to take part in the investigation process.
- The Council has always been clear that the independent investigation report would be considered by the Director of Place and Communities in reaching his decision on whether the grounds of the grievance are upheld, and this reflected the applicable council policies. That report was considered, and the outcome of the Director's report was shared with Trade Unions and each of the individuals involved in the grievance in January 2024.
- GMB's most recent communication states that "7 out of 9 allegations were upheld or partially upheld by the independent investigator". It is important to note that none of the 9 lines of enquiry mentioned the word bullying.
- The Council has offered repeatedly to meet with Trade Union representatives to resolve the dispute. The council is committed to ongoing dialogue and discussion with Trade Unions to resolve these issues and bring an end to the disruption caused to residents and will continue to make repeated efforts with them to focus on working together to find an appropriate and amicable resolution.
- It is important to reiterate that ACAS conciliation was planned for early December and unions walked away from that before it was even given a chance to commence.
- The current strike action started before any investigation had been completed and before any conciliation could take place despite the Council asking for this to be considered on a number of occasions. The first strike was planned by the GMB to coincide with anti-bullying week despite bullying not being on the original grievance nor raised during the investigation which can only be viewed as a publicity stunt.
All elected members are asked to take a neutral stance in respect of these issues at this time so that they are able to discharge their duties, if called upon regarding any appeals process
In summary, this has been and should continue to be an internal HR process with a clear policy that the Council has tried to respect throughout. The outcome of the report should be confidential. However, GMB appear to have ignored parts of the process and have elected to publish information about the grievance and the report that is inaccurate and risks prejudicing the ongoing process.
This is not the first time that the GMB has provided inaccurate information to the public regarding this industrial Action. https://www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/20465/Statement-in-Response-to-GMB-over-Industrial-Action
As we have always said, our people are our strongest asset, and our waste services operatives are much valued members of the Council's workforce serving on the frontline, supporting 72,000 households, and emptying 6.5 million bins every year.
The Council remains ready to resolve this through conciliation and repeat our plea to union representatives to come to the table to put an end to the dispute.