Workers set to take Carillion to tribunal
A GROUP of 49 housekeeping staff at the Great Western Hospital have asked their lawyers to pursue claims in an employment tribunal.
This comes amid allegations of race and religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation by their employer Carillion.
In the tribunal papers, the staff members, who are all of Goan origin, said they were subjected to a culture of intimidation and fear by supervisors at the GWH.
The staff members, who are employed in cleaning, catering and portering roles, say managers demanded ‘gifts’ from non-white staff including cash, jewellery, cigarettes, alcohol and, in one instance, bedding in return for bestowing ‘favours’ such as granting holiday and overtime requests, allowing staff to remain in post and generally refraining from further prejudicial treatment.
Bindmans LLP lawyers Shah Qureshi, Emma Webster and Peter Nicholson said the claims are being brought against a backdrop of a complex industrial dispute between members of the union GMB and Carillion.
Shah Qureshi, firm partner and head of employment law said: “My clients allege that there was a system adopted by some managers whereby mainly Goan workers could not get overtime or holiday without bestowing gifts on them. “They also allege that those that did raise their heads above the parapet and complain were victimised with the threat of disciplinary action. “This type of scenario is akin to the ‘master and servant’ relationship of Victorian Britain and should have no place in the 21st century.”
Maria Ludkin, the GMB’s general counsel said:“We will take all steps to ensure our members secure a fair and just outcome.”
The parties have agreed to enter into conciliation discussions facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. If these discussions do not resolve their complaints, there will be a pre-hearing review at Bristol Employment Tribunal.
Emma Webster, solicitor at Bindmans, who will conduct initial conciliation discussions with Carillion’s lawyers said: “The claimants are looking forward to the conciliation talks.
“They are entering into the negotiations in good faith with the hope that respect and good working relations can be restored.”
Gemma Lynch, facilities manager at GWH, said:“Carillion does not tolerate any racism within our organisation. Racism is abhorrent. “We were disappointed that claims were submitted to the tribunal before our investigation returned its findings. Carillion will defend itself vigorously against the claims.
“The claims are part of a broader dispute in which the GMB are campaigning for union recognition. “We are hopeful that next week’s talks between Carillion and GMB, mediated via ACAS, will help us to make progress here. Sarah Rhodes, representative of the former manager at the centre of some of the allegations, said: “The claims referred to in this article are vigorously denied.”