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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 July 2007

Victory over bullying management

On 29 June Manchester Advice (MA) workers closed Manchester City Council's advice centre for the first time ever, due to health and safety fears over bullying management tactics.

Jim Cessford MA Unison senior steward

Around 35 staff, members of UNISON, took part in an impromptu workers' meeting to discuss how management had imposed no-go areas for shop stewards and tried to drive through structural changes.

The issue which finally brought about the action was the continued mistreatment of Consumers Advice (CA) workers, which culminated in case files being taken from them to be scrutinised by the head of service without any explanation from their manager.

This final straw came on 27 June when the workers were personally harangued by the head of service in front of three managers and the senior steward.

They just wanted to agree a compromise proposal with management which would keep all CA staff within the CA service, without the need for interviews.

The head of service told the staff that they had repeatedly misbehaved by not attending interviews, which would have led to one third of staff being without a CA job.

The workers' meeting continued for a considerable time, despite managers coming to tell them that it was an unauthorised meeting and making threats of disciplinary action. Eventually the head of service came down and made an offer of talks with shop stewards.

The meeting then agreed, in the interests of vulnerable members of the public, to return to work for talks to take place.

At the talks, stewards were assured that no disciplinary action will be taken against any staff, they would meet us again soon to discuss our outstanding issues.

Management later announced that they would accept our proposal for every Consumer Adviser to continue to work in the CA service.

This is a partial victory. But the stewards are still committed to: Eradicating bullying with an end to no-go areas, workload agreements for MA staff, no pay cuts for any MA worker and a full and genuine review of the new MA structure.

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