29th Jun, 2022

85pc of Coventry council staff bullied or harassed, shock staff survey claims

Felix Nobes 4th Mar, 2019 Updated: 4th Mar, 2019

ABOUT 85 per cent of Coventry City Council staff experience bullying or harassment, a shock survey by a major union claims.

GMB, one of the unions for city council staff, has claimed there is a ‘culture of bullying and intimidation’ at the local authority, which is making its employees’ lives a misery.

It has demanded urgent action from the council to improve but claims chiefs are refusing to engage in ‘meaningful discussions’.

The news comes weeks after we revealed formal complaints of bullying at the council have shot up alarmingly in the last three years.

And nearly £350,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent last year amid cuts on so-called ‘gagging clauses’ for staff.

They involve an employee and employer agreeing to keep matters relating to a dispute confidential, usually alongside a pay-off for a departing member of staff.

Opposition Conservative councillors have repeatedly called for an independent barrister-led inquiry into bullying claims – including some lodged against council members.

The poll, which went out to hundreds of council staff, revealed the 85 per cent had experienced bullying in the past year – all of which involved a manager.

Workers claim their jobs were threatened, they suffered unpleasant personal remarks, intimidation, exclusion, threats, public humiliation, malicious gossip and even physical attacks, the survey found.

It found 90 per cent were aware of colleagues being bullied or harassed.

It also suggests two thirds do not report the bullying because their manager is the bully or they felt reporting it ‘would have made things worse’, claiming many are ‘scared of retribution’.

Nearly two thirds said their manager treats them either badly or very badly and a third were bullied or harassed because of their gender, workers claimed.

GMB organiser Justine Jones said: “Despite continual efforts by GMB to resolve the situation, Coventry City Council has buried its heads in the sand – in fact they are time wasting over grievances to dissuade GMB members from submitting complaints.

“They are showing a complete lack of empathy towards staff who are suffering and this is from the top down.

“The authority is making no attempt to protect staff from bullying and intimidating behaviour which takes place on a daily basis.

“GMB will support members through any periods of difficulty and urge our members to come forward.

“Bullying in the workplace should not be tolerated at any level.

“It is time for Coventry City Council to deal with this systemic problem.”

GMB chiefs say they have submitted the results of the survey to the council’s human resources department in a bid to solve the problem, but are disappointed with its response.

Meanwhile grievances submitted by GMB members months ago remain live – in contravention of the council’s grievance policy.

COUNCIL RESPONSE:

A spokesperson for Coventry City Council said: “Coventry City Council refutes the bullying allegations made by the GMB union that there is a systemic problem with bullying across the organisation. These findings are totally contrary to what other recent independent survey research has found.

“The GMB survey’s validity and robustness must be questioned as by the union’s own admission this survey was sent to just ‘dozens’ of people which is clearly not representative of the approximate 5,500 people we employ.

“In 2018 more than 1,650 of our workforce took part in an independent staff survey to understand their views over a wide range of issues. From this far more representative process that was benchmarked nationally; bullying, intimidation and harassment was not highlighted as a significant problem and in fact 90% of staff felt that they felt “valued” in their current teams either ‘always’ or ‘some of the time’ . This high rate of satisfaction was greater than many comparative organisations.

“Coventry City Council does not tolerate bullying in any form whatsoever. It always take any allegations of bullying very seriously and we have processes in place to hear and deal with any concerns, which is key to ensure fairness to all parties.”

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