Attacks on Caerphilly waste management workers while council boss pockets £1m
Sasha O’Neil, Caerphilly Socialist Party
Unison and GMB trade union banners brightened the rain outside Caerphilly council offices on 3 October. The air rang with chants as waste management workers and their supporters demanded fair play for themselves and five unfairly sacked workmates.
The council has been using cameras – installed on waste collection vehicles for insurance purposes – to spy on the workforce and gather evidence to build a case against the bin workers.
The workers have always gone home when they finish their rounds – be that late or early. That’s custom and practice. The five bin workers have been sacked for carrying out their duties as they have always done – under the direction of management. Many more are under investigation.
The workforce says that the spying is a clear violation of their GDPR data protection law rights. Even without the new GDPR rules, trade unions have long successfully challenged such practices.
A bin worker told the Socialist: “Most of these boys have been under investigation since November. Some of them have been suspended since then. The council has given no reason. If we’re doing something wrong, we haven’t been given the chance to correct it.
“Management knew what was going on. They’re still letting people go home when the work is finished.”
Another worker explained that the council has a hidden agenda: “They’re flooding the department with agency workers and asking the workforce to train them to take their jobs off them.
“They’re trying to replace as many people as possible with agency staff. Then they’ll say our department is too expensive – and they’ll have an excuse to contract the service out.
“Barbara Jones, the interim Labour leader of the council, said when she came into post as deputy that she wasn’t afraid to contract out any service. And that’s her plan.
“This is just the beginning. If they get away with contracting out waste management, they’ll go onto highways, park services. Where will it end?”
Barbara Jones has just replaced David Poole, who resigned in September over claims of financial misconduct. Workers don’t want to let Jones carry on where Poole left off.
Bin workers were supported by council workers from a number of other departments, by union officials, Socialist Party members and by Caerphilly Trade Union Council.
They are prepared to put up a determined fight to win reinstatement for the sacked workers and make the council shelve their plans to contract out services.
The bin workers were protesting outside a council meeting that was considering the case of Anthony O’Sullivan, the council chief executive, who had been caught trying to slip a 20% pay-rise for himself and other executives through a council committee. The scandal was only dealt with in 2013 when council workers, whose pay had been frozen, walked out in protest.
O’Sullivan had been suspended on gardening leave for six years and was receiving full pay amounting to £1 million! He was eventually sacked for gross misconduct but the kid glove treatment he received contrasted starkly with the summary sackings of Caerphilly’s bin workers.
Caerphilly Socialist Party is calling for a trade union and community public enquiry into the running of Caerphilly council.