A UNION has today joined calls for an independent investigation into a bullying ‘epidemic’ on Coventry City Council.
The call by GMB – which represents council staff – comes ahead of the issue being discussed at a full council meeting this afternoon (March 19).
It also claimed grievance investigations called by some staff are being left unacceptably unresolved for months.
GMB union has followed opposition Conservative councillors and campaigners who are demanding a barrister-led probe into allegations of intimidation and bullying across all levels of the council.
GMB also says the council must pledge to tackle the large backlog of bullying grievances submitted by its members.
It claims some of these have been live for several months and are in direct contravention of the council’s grievance policy.
GMB recently published the results of a poll, in which dozens of staff responded, which the union claims suggested 85 per cent of council staff had experienced bullying in the past year – all of which involved a manager.
It demanded urgent action from the council to improve, but claims chiefs were refusing to engage in ‘meaningful discussions’.
GMB Organiser Justine Jones said: “It’s no secret that there is an epidemic of bullying and intimidation within Coventry City Council.
“After raising these issues for months, hopefully we will at last see some action being taken.
“The council must commit to a full, independent investigation, and make sure the backlog of bullying grievances is dealt with urgently.
“Failure to do so will lead to catastrophic breakdown of trust between staff and management.”
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.
The gagging clauses – on Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) 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 inquiry since the NDAs data was released to them – and after complaints were lodged against some councillors.
A spokesperson for Coventry City Council previously stated: “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.”
Today’s debate has been called by Tory opposition councillors.