FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF GMB STRIKE ACTION AGAINST CARILLION

carillion-strike-meeting

Today is the anniversary of the first of 22 days of strike action by GMB members at the Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon, one of the earliest Private Finance Initiative (PFI) build and operate hospitals, and only the second opened by Carillion. This long running industrial dispute between the union and Carillion, over the failure of the company to recognise GMB, the unfair holiday system, and the culture of management bullying, which included years of covering up a system of shakedowns and extortion by supervisors, who terrorised the mainly South Asian women workforce into giving gold, money and other valuables in exchange for shift changes, overtime or holiday approvals. This extortion had been reported to Carillion in at least 2007, and the company was aware of the accusations at director level in at least 2009.

The dispute raised the question of how inappropriate it is for profit driven companpanis like Carillion, with a weak culture of corporate governance, to be operating public services. In January the Observer reported the scandalous failure of care at the Surgicare centre in Hertfordshire, also run by the services group Carillion, which mades somber reading. Three deaths of patients who had been admitted for routine treatment prompted an independent report before Christmas, as the Observer recounts:

the report also contained the admission that nurses dealing with the case at the privately run centre had needed a ventilator at 8.30am the day before the patient died, but “no machine was available”. That admission, along with the report’s further revelation that clinical medical records are missing and that the resident medical officer at the Surgicentre did not ask for a more senior doctor to attend to Ms Mansi as her health deteriorated, has provoked her brother, Michael, to demand the closure of the centre, which has been at the centre of a series of scandals over the past year.

The Carillion run unit had already been investigated over potential failings in the cases of six patients who suffered irreversible sight loss after treatment. There have been 21 serious clinical and patient information incidents since the clinic opened in September 2011. The clinic also lost the records of 8,500 ophthalmology outpatients last year, prompting local MP Stephen McPartland to back calls for Carillion to lose its licence.

Carillion is a giant company, with annual revenue of around £5 billion, employing about 45000 people around the globe. Significantly, it earns millions of pounds from offering facilities management services within the UK public sector.

Carillion, was responsible not only for the design, construction and commissioning of the Swindon GWH, but also for on-going operation and maintenance of the £135 million project. Eric Shaw, in his persuasive book, Losing Labour’s Soul?: New Labour and the Blair Government 1997-2007, discusses how the NHS was taken to the cleaners when negotiating these PFI contracts. Not only did the NHS lack the commercial expertise, and were therefore required to outsource the project negotiations and management at enormous cost; but the contracts for operating the hospitals were developed on a deeply flawed risk model, paying the private companies a premium for assuming risk that was in fact still retained by the NHS as the operator of last resort.

There has to be a suspicion that the subsequent sale of the GWH by Carillion was designed to leverage this advantage, having secured what was probably an excessive original price for the 26 year operational contract, they were able to sell their stake once the real, lower, operational risk was known.

In December 2007, Carillion sold its equity in this project to Land Securities Trillium (LST) along with the Harplands Hospital in North Staffordshire and Glasgow’s Southern General Hospita; being paid £21.5m for the three hospitals. The musical chairs didn’t stop there, as Land Securities then sold Trillium to Telereal in 2009 for £750m to form Telereal Trillium and the 10% stake it had in Trillium PPP Investment Partners fund was then again sold to existing investors in the fund and Semperian PPP Investment Partners was created.

So now it is Semperian who owns the premises and the facilities contract for the Great Western Hospital, but it employs Carillion as a sub-contractor.

Carillion itself was formed by a de-merger from the Tarmac group in 1999, and the corporate rebranding obscured the fact that a construction giant had entered the services market in the public sector. It brought with it the hard-nosed, rapacious and money-grubbing ethos of the construction industry.

There is certainly a compelling similarity between the way Carillion has ignored, belittled and denied the reports of supervisor corruption at the Swindon hospital with the record of Carillion’s construction arm of victimising and blacklisting Health and Safety reps on its building sites. Earlier in 2012, Dave Smith, a former UCATT safety rep gained admissions in Employment Tribunal of the involvement of Liz Keates, HR Director for Carillion, with the blacklist; and it was Liz Keates who advised GMB representatives in February 2012 that Carillion would not be upholding any part of anyone’s grievance at the GWH, after 109 staff had given strong evidence of supervisor racism and bullying, and a number of staff had given testimony of extortion and shake downs by white supervisors and managers from their non-white staff. Ms Keates said that “there was no evidence”: disregarding the testimony of Carillion’s own staff.

The common denominator is a seeming presumption to dismiss staff complaints as nuisance or of no value, even where serious matters of site safety or systematic racism and extortion are involved. Although the Blacklist Support Group had been doing sterling work in exposing the activites of the Construction companies, and UCATT had previously raised the issue with MPs, the blacklisting issue acheived lift-off when GMB joined the dots between Carillion’s malpractice at the Swindon hospital, and the history of unlawful blacklisting by the same company in the construction industry.

It is clear from the evidence being produced to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation that Carillion was involved with the blacklisting Consulting Association from the beginning, and has been one of the most prolific users. However, it is not necessarily the worst company; Sir Robert MacAlpine put up the inital money for the Consulting Association, and at first their director, Callum MacAlpine chaired the meetings . The Chief Officer of the Consulting Association last week gave evidence that it was Balfour Beatty who the most hardline approach to blacklisting.

However, what makes Carillion different, and which is of particular concern, is that it is a very major player in providing public services, running schools, hospitals, and council services paid for out of the public purse. Carillion are a multi-billion pound business, for example its recent bid to run education services in Stafford would have been worth at least £700 million, and could have been worth £5bn over the project life.

If Carillion fails to conduct itself in a manner consistent with the expected ethical standards of the public sector, then it should not be considered for public services contracts.

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WILTSHIRE INDUSTRIAL HISTORY

by Rhian Jones, from Morning Star (first published December 2011)

 Wiltshire Industrial History In times of heightened class struggle, increasing knowledge and consciousness of how our predecessors faced similar situations is imperative and this record of the radical local history of Wiltshire is therefore especially welcome.

 Produced by the county’s Trades Council and based on a series of talks given at a local history day school, the book contains five pieces of largely forgotten or unexplored history which lift the lid on Wiltshire’s militant past.

They cover the 19th and 20th centuries, ranging from academic explorations by Professor Adrian Randall on the machine-breaking “Wiltshire outrages” of 1802, and by Steve Poole on the volatile relationship between the county’s rural labourers and the Chartist movement.

Derique Montaut gives a first-hand account of trade union activism in ’60s and ’70s Swindon and there are contributions by Nigel Costley on Wiltshire’s part in the Captain Swing rebellion of agricultural workers and Dave Chapple on Phyllis and Idris Rose, the husband-and-wife team of Communist local councillors in 1960s Trowbridge.

This is history presented in an accessible and engaging style, aimed at a wide general audience rather than an exclusively academic one.

Accordingly, it takes an expansive view of what counts as working-class history and focuses less on debates on “rough” versus “respectable” popular movements in favour of presenting a compelling narrative of the responses of ordinary people to social and political deprivation and oppression.

The narrative also makes room for the buried gems of historical incident, like the Trowbridge chemist imprisoned in 1839 for displaying bullets in his shop window bearing the label “pills for the Tories.”

A commendable blueprint for future collections of local history, the recording of these working-class episodes adds to the sterling work of industrial and social historians in rescuing our radical forerunners, in EP Thompson’s phrase, “from the enormous condescension of posterity.”

Copies can be purchased by sending a cheque for £8.50 per copy (inclusive of postage) to Rosie McGregor, White Horse (Wilts) TUC, 24 Bearfield Buildings, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1RP.

OR BUY IT ONLINE AT http://whitehorsetuc.org/

TEN YEARS OF PFI AT GREAT WESTERN

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Great Western Hospital (GWH) opening in Swindon, one of the earliest Private Finance Initiative (PFI) build and operate hospitals, and only the second opened by Carillion. The anniversary was marked today by a dozen GMB shop stewards protesting outside, highlighting the long running industrial dispute between the union and Carillion, over the failure of the company to recognise GMB, the unfair holiday system, and the culture of management bullying, which included years of covering up a system of shakedowns and extortion by supervisors, who terrorised the mainly South Asian women workforce into giving gold, money and other valuables in exchange for shift changes, overtime or holiday approvals. This extortion had been reported to Carillion in at least 2007, and the company was aware of the accusations at director level in at least 2009.

Carillion, was responsible not only for the design, construction and commissioning, but also for on-going operation and maintenance of the  £135 million project. Eric Shaw, in his persuasive book, Losing Labour’s Soul?: New Labour and the Blair Government 1997-2007, discusses how the NHS was taken to the cleaners when negotiating these PFI contracts. Not only did the NHS lack the commercial expertise, and were therefore required to outsource the project negotiations and management at enormous cost; but the contracts for operating the hospitals were developed on a deeply flawed risk model, paying the private companies a premium for assuming risk that was in fact still retained by the NHS as the operator of last resort.

There has to be a suspicion that the subsequent sale of the GWH by Carillion was designed to leverage this advantage, having secured what was probably an excessive original price for the 26 year operational contract, they were able to sell their stake once the real, lower, operational risk was known.

In December 2007, Carillion sold its equity in this project to Land Securities Trillium (LST) along with the Harplands Hospital in North Staffordshire and Glasgow’s Southern General Hospita; being paid £21.5m for the three hospitals. The musical chairs didn’t stop there, as Land Securities then sold Trillium to Telereal in 2009 for £750m to form Telereal Trillium and the 10% stake it had in Trillium PPP Investment Partners fund was then again sold to existing investors in the fund and Semperian PPP Investment Partners was created.

So now it is Semperian who owns the premises and the facilities contract for the Great Western Hospital, but it employs Carillion as a sub-contractor.

Carillion itself was formed by a de-merger from the Tarmac group in 1999, and the corporate rebranding obscured the fact that a construction giant had entered the services market in the public sector. It brought with it the hard-nosed, rapacious and money-grubbing ethos of the construction industry.

There is certainly a compelling similarity between the way Carillion has ignored, belittled and denied the reports of supervisor corruption at the Swindon hospital with the record of Carillion’s construction arm of victimising and blacklisting Health and Safety reps on its building sites. Earlier in 2012, Dave Smith, a  former UCATT safety rep gained admissions in Employment Tribunal of the involvement of Liz Keates, HR Director for Carillion, with the blacklist; and it was Liz Keates who advised GMB representatives in February 2012 that Carillion would not be upholding any part of anyone’s grievance at the GWH, after 109 staff had given strong evidence of supervisor racism and bullying, and a number of staff had given testimony of extortion and shake downs by white supervisors and managers from their non-white staff. Ms Keates said that “there was no evidence”: disregarding the testimony of Carillion’s own staff.

The common denominator is a seeming presumption to dismiss staff complaints as nuisance or of no value, even where serious matters of site safety or systematic racism and extortion are involved. Although the Blacklist Support Group had been doing sterling work in exposing the activites of the Construction companies, and UCATT had previously raised the issue with MPs, the blacklisting issue acheived lift-off when GMB joined the dots between Carillion’s malpractice at the Swindon hospital, and the history of unlawful blacklisting by the same company  in the construction industry.

It is clear from the evidence being produced to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation that Carillion was involved with the blacklisting Consulting Association from the beginning, and has been one of the most prolific users. However, it is not necessarily the worst company; Sir Robert MacAlpine put up the inital money for the Consulting Association, and at first their director, Callum MacAlpine chaired the meetings . The Chief Officer of the Consulting Association last week gave evidence that it was Balfour Beatty who the most hardline approach to blacklisting.

However, what makes Carillion different, and which is of particular concern, is that it is a very major player in providing public services, running schools, hospitals, and council services paid for out of the public purse. Carillion are a multi-billion pound business, for example its recent bid to run education services in Stafford would have been worth at least £700 million, and could have been worth £5bn over the project life.

If Carillion fails to conduct itself in a manner consistent with the expected ethical standards of the public sector, then it should not be considered for public services contracts.

LIB DEM VOTE COLLAPSES IN WILTSHIRE

Lib Dems go from 30% in 2010 across Wiltshire to 4th behind Labour and an Independent. Very good result for Labour, coming second across Wiltshire for the first time in my recollection. This is a very promising result for Labour in the 2014 Euro elections, where Labour currently have no MEPs for the South West Euro-constituency.

The police commissioner result is interesting, because Wiltshire is typical of those parts of the West Country where Labour has never historically managed to displace the Liberals to become the second party. This carried with it the mixed blessing that Chippenham will almost certainly swing from the Liberals to Tory at the next election.

Angus MacPherson Tory 35,319 including 6,761 second preferences from bottom four candidates – 62.5%

Clare Moody 21,157 including 4.959 second preferences – 37.5%

Rejected second preferences 5,308 mainly due to no 2nd preference shown for 2 remaining candidates.

Swindon turnout 14.68%
Wiltshire turnout 16.35%

Overall turnout 15.83%

First preferences across whole county

MacPherson Tory 28,558

Moody 16,198

Skelton Ind. 11,446

Batchelor Lib Dem 10,130

Short UKIP 7,250

Silcock Ind, 5,212

Spoilt 2,683

GMB TAKES CARILLION DISPUTE TO LABOUR CONFERENCE

 GMB’s intent to bring the Carillion dispute into the Labour conference was signalled at 10:00 am yesterday, when officials and activists took over the Carillion stall in the exhibition area, accompanied by the grim reaper – protesting at Carillion’s poor record of safety on construction sites, at the scandal of blacklisting, and the cover up of corruption at Great Western Hospital(GMH) in Swindon. This complements the union’s hard hitting approach to bringing the question of employment rights to the conference floor.

At lunch time, GMB shop steward from Carillion at GWH, Margaret Okoraofo, shared a platform at the GMB fringe event with Nicola Smith, head of economics at TUC, Victoria Philips of Thompsons Solicitors, and Angela Eagle MP. Margaret spoke passionately explaining the experience of bullying, racism and corruption that Carillion staff at GWH have endured.

Meanwhile, GMB shop steward Paulo Fernandes apoke from the platform of the Morning Star fringe alongside Katy Clark MP, Billy Hayes, General Secretary of CWU, and Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE. The turn out at the Morning Star fringe was quite good, but unfortunately looked a bit lost in the cavernous venue. Paulo described the scandal of a private sector company in the NHS shaking down vulnerable and low paid staff.

The voices of working class people, like Paulo and Margaret is sadly all too absent at Labour conference; yet these are the sort of voices that the party needs to reconnect with the 5 million voters lost since 1997.

 

Meanwhile, GMB shop steward Paulo Fernandes apoke from the platform of the Morning Star fringe alongside Katy Clark MP, Billy Hayes, General Secretary of CWU, and Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE. The turn out at the Morning Star fringe was quite good, but unfortunately looked a bit lost in the cavernous venue. Paulo described the scandal of a private sector company in the NHS shaking down vulnerable and low paid staff.

The voices of working class people, like Paulo and Margaret is sadly all too absent at Labour conference; yet these are the sort of voices that the party needs to reconnect with the 5 million voters lost since 1997.

PRIDE 2012

 

GMB activists shared a pitch with the Labour Party for Swindon Pride 2012

South Swindon’s once and future MP, Anne Snelgrove

PICTURES CHRIS O’BRIEN

CARILLION – BUNCH OF COWBOYS

GMB PROTEST WITH ‘COACH AND HORSES’ OVER BATH EMPLOYMENT AGENCY ILLEGALLY SUPPLYING STAFF TO SWINDON HOSPITAL DURING CARILLION STRIKE DAYS

GMB is asking the government’s enforcement body EASI to conduct an investigation into the alleged strike breaking as breaches of the regulations result in fines of £5,000 per worker per day supplied to do the work of the strikers

GMB staged a protest demonstrations today in both Swindon and Bath using a Wild West stagecoach and horses over a Bath employment agency running a ‘coach and horses’ through the law that forbids employment agencies to supply staff during trade disputes. This included driving the stagecoach around the grounds of the Great Western Hospital.

GMB has now made a formal complaint to the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI) that SkyBlue Solutions in Bath illegally supplied staff to the Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon during strike days.
Around 150 GMB members are involved in strike action at the hospital against their PFI employer Carillion over allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination. GMB members have already taken fifteen days of strike action at Great Western Hospital in Swindon. A further seven days of strike action from Saturday 17th March to Friday 23rd March is in progress