“Union busting”: Scottish PCS protest slams shock human rights commission sackings


10 striking human rights workers sacked ‘by email’ while on strike

SCOTTISH trade unionists have slammed Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) bosses for “union busting” after ten of their colleagues were sacked while taking industrial action.

Around 50 PCS members were joined by supporters from other unions outside the EHRC offices on West George Street in Glasgow city centre. Staff walked out to applause from the gathered protesters.

Ten EHRC workers were given notice, without prior warning, of compulsory redundancy yesterday (9 February), whilst on the fifth day of strike action against cuts to the service. Nine of the 10 sacked staff were PCS members, and the union claims they received notice via email.

“This is unprecedented compulsory redundancy in the civil service, you would normally expect a period to not just wind up your work but apply for further employment.” Lynn Henderson

The Glasgow protest was one of several across the UK.

Speaking to the crowd, PCS Glasgow branch vice chair Bill Stevenson said: “Yesterday, 10 members of staff, 9 PCS members were summarily dismissed after participating in our fifth day of strike action.

“It’s hard to stomach losing ten colleagues when we are also caring 30 vacancies.

“The day after the redundancies we have no senior management here, because they are in London interviewing for vacancies.

“The management like to talk the talk when it comes to equality, but it’s the trade union members who walk the walk.

PCS and GMB members outside EHRC offices in Glasgow

“This is about union busting, unfortunately the commission has a long history of union busting.”

PCS claims that the staff members were told they had to clear their desks by the close of play today (10 February), in an attempt to stop them collecting evidence to appeal against dismissal.

The union has also said the sackings are being felt disproportionately by BME and disabled staff as well as union members, who were made redundant from offices in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Lynn Henderson, PCS National Officer for Scotland and Ireland, told CommonSpace that the compulsory redundancies were “unprecedented”.

“This is unprecedented compulsory redundancy in the civil service, you would normally expect a period to not just wind up your work but apply for further employment.

This is part of the Tory cuts agenda, and staff are being decimated. Staff who are being made redundant today include members of the BME community and disabled workers.”

SNP MP Chris Stephens, who is the vice chair of the PCS group at Westminster, attend the protests and told CommonSpace this was about cuts, but also the rise in hate crime.

The dramatic compulsory redundancies come in a political climate dominated by Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump and threats to human rights. The commission is meant to aid the state and civil society in complying with human rights law and good practice.

He said: “I’ve been raising questions about the cuts [to EHRC] and the effects it will have, not just on staff but on the victims of hate crime

“The chair of the commission has informed the chair of the committee on human rights, that any further cuts will ensure that EHRC will no longer be able to fulfil its statutory duties.

“We know that hate crime is on the increase.

“We should ensure that EHRC is able to carry out its duties.”

Trade unionists applaud EHRC staff as they walk out of work

The sudden sackings came after months of tense negotiations at the commission, with unions believing they had warded of the threat of compulsory redundancies.

Speaking to CommonSpace, and EHRC spokesperson said: “It is untrue to say staff have been sacked by email. Face to face meetings have taken place over recent weeks to notify them when redundancy letters would be issued.

“The full notice period is being paid as this will give every person the chance to focus on securing alternative employment, in which they will have our continued and full support to help them.

“Like every public sector organisation we have had cuts imposed on us and it is with great sadness that we have to issue redundancy notices. We regret having to do this but have made sure the process has been fair, robust and transparent.

“The difficult changes we are making will ensure we can still deliver our ambitious programme and we will remain a robust and independent voice to protect people’s rights.”

PCS will soon be holding emergency meetings to discuss its next step in the campaign to re-instate the sacked workers. Industrial action is set to continue with further days of strike.

Pictures courtesy of CommonSpace, Facebook

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