Strike ballot over council's "culture of bullying"

Swanley Town Council staff in the GMB union are being balloted for strike action over accusations of bullying, intimidation and victimisation after a collective grievance was raised about their treatment.

The union said it has repeatedly asked the authority to ensure its members are protected from potential victimisation while the grievance was investigated but nothing has been done.

Nick Day, GMB membership development officer, said: "GMB members were forced to raise a formal grievance over what they described as a culture of bullying and intimidation that exists within the council.

"Since raising their grievance, no steps have been taken by the council and further allegations have had to be put forward. Our members love working for Swanley Town Council but poor treatment has led to increased levels of stress and anxiety and has even led to resignations.

"Therefore, GMB has no other option but to ballot for industrial action. The council must take all steps necessary to protect its employees and to put their duty of care first. Our members can no longer tolerate how they've been treated in the workplace."

Cllr Victor Southern, leader of Swanley Town Council, said: "I have been informed, indirectly, that the GMB union is balloting its members amongst the staff at Swanley Town Council to take industrial action. This was threatened several weeks ago but was delayed as members were sick or on holiday. The GMB union representative also went on holiday.

"The dispute arises out of a collective grievance into which, with the union's agreement, we engaged specialist independent investigators to look into the issues raised. The process, agreed to by the union, has been substantially delayed due to staff being unavailable for interview. The investigators' reports are completed and we have attempted to set three dates on which the grievance could be heard by a special committee of the council, the latest date being Friday 19 August, which is acceptable to the members and the union as I understand it.

"It is hard for me to understand why this ballot should go ahead on that very day when all of the union's demands are met.

"I cannot comment on the grievances as they are personal and councillors may not discuss staff matters in public. I have not had sight of the final reports as I am not appointed to the special committee."