Thursday, 25 September 2014

Time for Brent Council employees to make a stand against racism and bullying and come forward with their cases

The Brent Unison representative wrote to Christine Gilbert, Brent Council Acting Chief Executive, regarding the treatment of Rosemary Clarke saying “I am deeply concerned regarding the way Rosemary Clarke is being treated, the lack of adherence to procedures and the breach of confidentiality.”

She called Clarke's treatment by Cara Davani, Head of Human Resources, 'unprecedented and unnecessary'.

Clarke recently won her case with a judment that she has suffered racial discrmination, victimisation and  constructive dismissal.

I understand that today another ex-employee of Brent Council has had a positive outcome at the Watford Employment Tribunal.  Marion Hofmann's cause was championed by Francis Henry LINK who resigned as chair of Brent Sustainability Forum over Hofmann's treatment. Hofmann is white.

He wrote:
I and others are appalled how Brent Council and your senior officers have treated one of our colleagues who has contributed so much to public engagement and the promotion of environmental issues.

It would seem that as an organisation Brent Council and some of your officers in Environmental Services will do everything possible to get rid of good and trusted officers who understand how to work with local people and who are truly committed to the cause.

I am so disgusted by the conduct of Brent Council and the conduct of your senior officers that I am resigning as Chair of Brent Sustainability Forum and ceasing my involvement with anything involving your Council.
You and the whole Council should be ashamed in the way you treat your valued members of staff who have the trust and respect of the local community.
I do not know the details of the Judgment but will publish as soon as I do.

This is beginning to look like a pattern, rather than a one-off, which is what of course many people commenting on Wembley Matters have claimed.

 'Unprecedented' may not be quite correct as Cara Davani had a run-in with Unisonn when she was at Tower Hamlets Council. This is what Personnel Today wrote in May 2006 LINK
The HR director at Tower Hamlets has fired a parting shot at one of the east London council’s trade unions after leaving for a new job.

Cara Davani, who left last week after three years in the role, accused Unison – which represents more than 2,200 staff at the authority -of being obstructive and afraid of change.

“I’ve watched [union reps] say no to something before they even know what I’m proposing,” she said. “I find that very hard to deal with.

Relationships have been mixed and there have been changes and restructuring they’ve found difficult to stomach.”
Davani said the council had “excellent” relations with the GMB, its other trade union, but that Unison was more “militant”.

Earlier this month, Unison members went on strike over changes to the council’s sickness absence procedures.

The union accused management of “bullying” staff by introducing a call centre that sick staff must notify when they are absent. But Davani said the union only objected after a decision was made to outsource the role to specialist firm FirstAssist.

John McLoughlin, Unison branch chairman, hit back, claiming it had been “very difficult” working with Davani. “The corporate management team have their own agenda to see change through rather than any genuine consultation,” he said.
Either Brent Council did not check on Carani's background and were therefore negligent, or did and were quite happy with her approach. Both options are worrying.

Following the Brent TUC motion reported below and the success (and courage) of Rosemary Clarke and Marion Hoffman it is time for the many anonymous contributers of comments on this blog to come forward and put their cases to their union. That is what unions are for after all. Comments may let off steam, but they do not effect the change that is needed at Brent Council or win compensation for those experiencing injustice.

Action through the unions can do that.  While complaints remain anonymous they can be ignored by both union officials, who want to avoid confrontation with management, and Brent Council itself. They can legitimately claim that they cannot follow up such complaints as they do not know the person complaining and no documented evidence, or less legitimately, that all the comments on Wembley Matters could have been made by just a handful of people.

I am aware that because of the alleged bullying and victimisation, people have been reluctant to come forward. In the new atmosphere generated by the Employment Tribunal judgments, and by Brent TUC's demand for an independent investigation, people should have the confidence to make a stand.

Together we stand - divided we fall.

Don't let the bullies win.


  1. From what I've read here, many staff at Brent council don't trust, or are suspicious of, individual union reps (rather than having no faith in unions per se). I can understand that as I have worked in the past in places where the union reps seemed far too close to the management for staff to be prepared to confide in them. Whether this view is justified or a misperception doesn't matter if the net result is that staff are not prepared to come forward.
    Would it not be possible, given the gravity of the situation, for borough or regional officers of the union to collect statements or meet employees rather than the matter being dealt with by the reps at the Civic Centre? The confidentiality this would give might be in everyone's interests.
    Mike Hine

  2. Form an orderly queue please.

    1. Is this agreement that it would be a way of maximising the response?

  3. Not likely to happen as staff don't trust the unions at Brent, if I had a problem I would get legal advice externally.

    1. But external legal advice would cost the earth and change nothing. You're playing their game the way they want it played; your financial clout versus theirs. Who's going to win that one?That's the whole point of joint action; you use what you've got and what they haven't. 'They've got the guns but we've got the numbers' if you like.
      If 'staff don't trust the unions at Brent' because they're not confident about confiding in individuals who are part of the Civic Centre establishment , that's maybe understandable. If staff at Brent just 'don't trust the unions' generally then their only hope is in individual action, and prayer.
      Mike Hine

    2. The very reason why this has gone on for so long is because individuals have been fearful of speaking out because they know what the consequences could be. This is the first time that there has been a mechanism for staff to voice their concerns (apart from the CE blog and Question Time - joke) and it has been collated in the same place - the number is staggering! Unless staff take a stand, this will continue and the scoundrels will carry on with their underhandedness - or become more clever at hiding it. The unions CANNOT ignore staff especially if each and everyone who has a complaint complains. It's the process and let's face it, that is what you pay your money for!!

      I believe that all compromise agreements made during Davani's time at Brent are looked at. Terms of confidentiality are lifted so that we can all see the conditions. Each and every director is culpable - as shown by the Hoffman case. This goes wider than Davani each and every one of them is guilty she's just created an environment where it's all ok....feels a bit like pavlov's dogs. Take a stand Brent Council staff unite. Look at Clarke and Hoffman - look at what's happened so far as a result. The voice of staff is deafening.

    3. It really seems as if all that's lacking is a channel, organised by Unison and the GMB, and by external officers if necessary, whereby staff can confidentially provide statements, with names which will be guaranteed to be kept in confidence except to an outside independent investigator.
      Staff would feel safe. Management couldn't question the validity of the evidence. The only objections would come from those afraid of the truth.
      This evidence would be supplied to the independent investigation which Cllr Butt must set up.
      Davani should be suspended during the investigation as a belated recognition by Cllr Butt that he can't defend the indefensible and her pay from that point should be conditional on her being absolved of any guilt, both on the Tribunal appeal and the evidence from the investigation.
      Your move, Unison and GMB regional officers. And no delay, please.

      Mike Hine

  4. Are we still waiting for a reply from Eric Pickles?
    Surely he should have said something and time has elapsed on a response.

    Martin is there anything that Brent residents do to make something happen? Who can they turn to for an independent enquiry into tbe goings on, the HR culture and the ongoing wrong practice of the HR Director.

    We pay our taxes and this isn't fair.

    Siennah Bysor

    1. My second letter to EP, sent 22 Sept - Request for Independent Inquiry, Brent Council

      I wrote to you on 7th May 2014.......As I have not had any reply .......I am taking this this opportunity (a) to ask whether your department has taken any action ......... and (b) to bring to your attention the Employment Tribunal judgement of 4th September 2014 which demonstrates the extent of underhand .... behaviour by the council's HR director and the borough solicitor.

      The HR director has angered a great many staff by her bullying ...... This anger intensified when she was made permanent in the role and staff realised that all hope of anyone taking their concerns seriously was now lost. ........

      In a situation where staff could easily find themselves the subject of trumped up disciplinary and capability charges followed by dismissal (clearly illustrated in the body of the ET judgement) if they raised their heads above the parapet, their whistleblowing of the Oyster Card misuse provided the most direct means of exposing both the behaviour of the HR director as well as the extent to which the council machinery was prepared to go to protect her in the face of blatant misdemeanors.

      I .... had outlined to council leader Mohamed Butt that there is a graceful way for the HR director to leave given that I know he will not want to sack her, which is actually what would have happened to anyone else under similar circumstances). My suggestion was that the HR director could simply announce that she would not be returning after her maternity leave departure at the end of May 2014. As it turned out, such is the HR director's complete dedication to Brent Council, that she returned to work after a mere two weeks' maternity leave following the birth of her twins.

      The director of HR in particular appears to have a complete strangle-hold on both elected as well as executive elements of the council and the ET judgement illustrates that she had lied to the Chief Executive and another executive director in order to elicit a particular response. There is also documentary evidence in existence to show that the HR director sought to circumvent council procedures relating to Member involvement in senior appointments in order to secure a particular outcome and that she had further permitted the appointment of another senior officer without interview.

      The ET judgement, a copy of which I attach, shows the council to be guilty of racial discrimination, victimisation and unfair (constructive) dismissal, all of which actions have been carried out by the HR director with supporting roles actively played by the borough solicitor and chief executive. It is a further telling point that the borough's employment solicitor was giving advice on decisions made by the HR director with whom he was in a personal relationship and that this was permitted to happen by both the borough solicitor as well as by the chief executive.

      I assume you are aware that Brent's chief executive is Christine Gilbert, former head of OFSTED, so presumably not someone entirely ignorant of corporate and organisational procedure governance and furthermore, someone who would be familiar with the concept of public perception and the importance of being seen to be doing the correct thing. Of course although Ms Gilbert was brought in as chief executive by the HR director with whom she had previously worked, it is not for me to infer that this factor would have weighed with Ms Gilbert when backing her director of HR's questionable decisions or the even more questionable practice of seeking and accepting legal advice about those decisions from said HR director's partner.

      There is much more I could point out however what is relevant at this stage is that a proper forensic examination is ordered into those decisions made by the chief executive, borough solicitor and HR director triumvirate that could well have a questionable legal and moral basis as well as having wasted public funds.

    2. Excellent, necessary and impossible to ignore. No response so far, I assume.
      Mike Hine

  5. I personally haven't had any issues with my Unison rep and wouldn't hesitate discussing any confidential work issues with her. As previously mentioned on this site Davani has a strong dislike for Unison and has strong 'relations' with GMB. This is evident as GMB literally sit outside of Davani's 'office'.

    1. Aha! Things are getting clearer.

    2. That's her modus operandi...

  6. The problem is that staff are not litigation experts and so they do not know precisely what evidence they would need to acquire in order for their claim to be successful.

    A lot of the stuff happening at Brent is VERY subtle so this makes it equally hard for staff to substantiate their allegations with evidence to a standard to satisfy an impartial witness.

    Unions need to educate their staff more about what constitues unacceptable treatment or working conditions and how best they can record this. Staff will only feel safe to come forward when they know that there is a solid case to support them if they do because it isn't a fair fight otherwise as other commentators have stated.

    If Brent objects to this, then the answer should simply be "If you have nothing to fear, then you have nothing to hide." - a response often favoured by those in power!

    Is it any surprise that a lot of the cases we're hearing about involve staff related to HR? Of course not - they know the rules better than any of the rest of us!

  7. When did Christine Gilbert leave Tower Hamlets as they seem a double act , with Davani doing the dirty work for Gilbert.

  8. When will this all end. We need an external investigation. Appointing tne deputy leader just shows Brent Council know that they are guilty.

    It's a terrible shame. A racist bully is supported by the CE and the leader. So we've got no hope at all.

    It's dire. Seriously it's beyond a joke now.

    S. GEE

  9. Brent Council celebrating Black History Month....event for staff. This would be funny if it wasn't so tragic!! STAFF DO NOT ATTEND!!