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14 May 2014
Greenwich: Striking out against bullying
Occupational Therapists (OTs) in Greenwich will be taking strike action on Wednesday 21st May to protest about bullying and harassment in the workplace. This strike action by Unite members employed by the council is the trade union answer to how to deal with bullying bosses.
Any worker who has been through the process of raising an internal complaint through a grievance process will know that often this feels like the police policing the police. You are asking the employer, who often creates the atmosphere in which bullying breeds, to investigate one of its own managers. It is often the case that even if the grievance investigation finds that bullying took place, it is brushed under the carpet - perhaps with claims that it was not deliberate, it was about perceptions and the wrong management style.
The OTs in Greenwich tried the grievance approach. The response from the employer was to move one of the complainants out of the team and to suspend another. The allegation against one of the suspended members was that she was too friendly with her work colleagues! In Greenwich, being mates with your workmates is now an offence punishable by threats of dismissal.
This should not really be a surprise. The Sunday Politics programme on the BBC did a few months ago expose an alleged bullying culture among councillors with the then leader of the council as the main instigator. There could therefore be a trickle-down effect - with managers feeling it is acceptable to manage using bullying as a tool.
In light of all this, the OTs, a small group of 10 workers who all voted to strike, deserve to be applauded for their bravery in making this stand. Unite regional officer for Greenwich, Onay Kasab stated: "I am very proud of these Unite members who are showing the way - collective action to beat bullying. I hope this inspires other workers in other workplaces to do the same".
TUSC candidates [Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition] are standing in Greenwich in the local elections on 22 May to put forward an alternative to the bullying culture that exists in workplaces and therefore picked the ward where the council leader was standing. But unable to cope with the light being shone on him, the leader has resigned. This sends the clearest message: workers should not be left to take a kicking in the dark by being forced to depend on grievance procedures that isolate workers. Bullying needs to be brought out into the open, in full view - something that bullies everywhere find difficult to cope with. The best way to do that is by trade union collective action.
- Join the strikers on 21st May. 7am to 10am at the Woolwich Centre, Wellington Street, Woolwich, London (opposite the town hall).
Greenwich Socialist Party
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