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Posted on 7 February 2012 at 10:32 GMT

The scandalous role of London Unison - Demand that it defends Len Hockey!

Health workers across Whipps Cross hospital in north east London have rallied to the defence of Len Hockey, joint Unison branch secretary.

Porters, domestics, switchboard staff, social workers, nurses, ambulance workers, volunteers and staff at the on-site nursery have all signed the petition against the investigation being carried out by Len's employer, Initial Facilities.

Members of Len's Unison branch rightly expect their union to vigorously defend their branch secretary.

So members were astounded to receive a three-page letter at their home addresses on the weekend of 21st January, from their Unison regional officer, attacking Len.

The letter was addressed to Len but the first he knew of it was the phone calls he received from shocked members.

A very difficult time has been faced in recent months with workers having to battle the employers over rebanding and redundancies. An increasingly bullying regime has led to big numbers of staff on final warnings.

The letter from the region, a response to a branch survey of members carried out at the start of November 2011, is a scandalous attempt to drive a wedge between Len and the members, and blames Len for the problems the members face.

The letter came at the same time as Len receiving notice of the investigation from the employer.

Members of staff, who wish to remain nameless for fear of reprisals, showed the letter to The Socialist.

One porter said: "Len has been a brilliant branch secretary. He has always stood by us, now we need to stand by him.

"We're with him all the way. We expect the union to do everything in its power to defend Len."

Paula Mitchell

The letter, dated 19 January 2012, from Greater London UNISON:

Dear Len

Initial Facilities - Whipps Gross Hospital

I refer to your correspondence dated 1 November 2011 to Initial Facilities UNISON membership based at Whipps Cross Hospital.

My apologies for the delayed response but obviously the national pension's dispute has intervened and the Xmas break.

In your correspondence you inform members of eight difficulties that are or have been experienced by members working for Initial Facilities at Whipps Cross Hospital.

These are listed below:

1. Compulsory redundancies of Domestic Customer Service Managers members posts.

2. Compulsory redundancies of Portering helpdesk posts.

3. Compulsory redundancies of Deputy Head Porter's posts.

4. The refusal of the company to implement NHS Agenda For Change in full, including correct redundancy payments.

5. The failure to take seriously representation by the union regarding the health and safety of domestic staff that use buffer machines.

6. Pay cuts to contractual overtime payments to some portering staff.

7. The failure to give equal pay and treatment to bank members of staff.

8. The refusal of the company to progress NHS Job Evaluation for the portering staff.

I am responding to each of these issues so that UNISON members at Whipps Cross Hospital receive full and detailed information regarding what has already been done at regional level on member's behalf.

Issues 1 to 3 - Compulsory redundancies of Domestic Customer Service

Managers members' posts; Compulsory redundancies of Portering helpdesk posts; Compulsory redundancies of Deputy Head Porter's posts.

As discussed and agreed between us the member's paperwork was taken to Thompsons legal clinic for advice as to whether there was any legal challenge to these redundancies. The legal advice was that any legal challenge to these redundancies had no prospects of success. That response was communicated to you but I am unclear if you have advised the members of this?

Issue 4 - The refusal of the company to implement NHS Agenda for Change in full, including correct redundancy payments.

A strategy was agreed with UNISON's Industrial Action Committee (lAC) in May 2009 over how outstanding Agenda for Change (AfC) issues were to be determined at Whipps Cross Hospital.

This strategy arose from the rejection by the lAC of your request for a strike ballot. The decision of the lAC was an instruction to you and the Region as to how to proceed in this matter.

That was that job descriptions had to be specific to the jobs being evaluated. Job descriptions were not to be generic.

Advice was available from the then Senior National Officer to assist in this matter if required. Two lay GLR UNISON experts in job evaluation from differing Trusts in London were available to help and put on standby.

Unfortunately your behaviour throughout this period has been to undermine this instruction and undermine the Region in trying to get the job evaluation exercise in place.

Your final intervention to get staff concerned to withdraw or refuse to recognise specific job descriptions in favour of generic job descriptions drawn up by yourself totally undermined the efforts to bring the outstanding aspects of AfC into operation at Whipps Cross Hospital.

The withdrawal of the employer from this process was a direct result of you refusing to abide by the lAC instruction.

Despite representations by myself and Chris Remington, Regional Head of Health, to Initial Facilities to return to the negotiating table, Initial Facilities regard your unwillingness to follow the instruction of UNISON's lAC and your disingenuous behaviour throughout this exercise to them, their staff -our members, as being a fundamental breakdown in the relationship.

Therefore the failure to progress AfC terms and conditions for our members rests solely with you. The failure to apply AfC redundancy terms is because you had undermined the negotiations over implementation of AfC and therefore your actions prevented members benefitting from the banding exercise and AfC redundancy terms.

Issue 5 The failure to take seriously representation by the union regarding the health and safety of domestic staff that use buffer machines.

Initial facilities have offered further training and have requested that you give evidence to support your claim that member's health and safety is being affected by buffer machines. That evidence has not been forthcoming.

Issue 6 Pay cuts to contractual overtime payments to some portering staff.

The claim by three porters affected by contractual overtime payments was taken to Thompsons Legal Clinic. The response was communicated to you and the members that the decision by Initial Facilities to vary these contracts was correct within the agreements and the law.

The supportive documentation you supplied was inaccurate. Thompsons advice was communicated to you and hopefully you forwarded it to the members on 30 September 2011?

Issue 7 The failure to give equal pay and treatment to bank members of staff.

Bank workers by definition are employed as temporary staff on differing terms and conditions from permanent staff.

Legal advice at your request was sought over this matter and the response, that there was no legal redress, was communicated to you and branch.

Issue 8 The refusal of the company to progress NHS Job Evaluation for the portering staff.

Please see paragraph four above. NHS Job Evaluation cannot be completed as, because of your actions, the process has been undermined and the employer has withdrawn.

The false information that was subsequently circulated by you to the Porters has been countered to some degree by my meetings with our Porter members and by my copying of this correspondence to them.

Yours Sincerely,

Vicky Lucioni
Regional Organiser

Cc Chris Remington, Regional Manager
Cc UNISON Members Initial Facilities

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 7 February 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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