Trade unions force change of direction on council bullying policy

Unions unhappy at anti-bullying consultation

PLANS BY MORAY Council to consult with all members of their staff as part of a £136,000 policy to eradicate bullying were scuppered in a heated debate on Tuesday.

In November councillors approved a raft of measures aimed at addressing bullying in the workplace – that following a poll conducted amongst their staff that showed almost one-third had experienced bullying in Council offices.

A further 40% claimed that they had been victimised by their superiors at the local authority.

However, when the policy and resources committee agreed to fund the new policy, Councillor Douglas Ross successfully put in place an amendment that would ensure that all staff, rather than just those who belonged to a trade union, should be consulted.

Councillor Ross was stunned at a meeting of the committee yesterday when, following a successful request to suspend standing orders over the issue, the amendment was removed and as a result only union members amongst the Council staff would be consulted.

The move came after representations from trade unions representing staff followed the November decision, saying that they had strong concerns that the council plans could contradict existing agreements they had with the local authority.

Councillor Ross found himself as the sole voice against changing the amendment, first trying to halt the suspension of standing orders by saying that there had been no material change on the issue since the decision was made in November.

When that moved failed, the Fochabers/Lhanbryde member claimed that it was sad to see that the “threat of strike action” by trade unions could force a change in the decisions of a democratically elected body. That claim caused complaints from other Councillors that no such threat had been made.

Councillor Ross, however, insisted that all staff should be consulted, saying: “We need to allow every employee at Moray Council an opportunity to comment on what is a very important policy. This is in no way undermining the unions – we are simply trying to ensure that every employee is involved.”

Leader of the Council Stewart Cree, however, insisted that the council policy would still allow all employees the chance to offer comment – although he added that it would not be possible to formally communicate with all staff, as formal communication was not available to non-union employees.

The motion to amend the previous decision that only union members would be formally approached was approved by 12 votes to one.