Emotional protests have been held outside offices of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in support of the workers leaving today on compulsory redundancy.
Yesterday (9 February) while PCS and Unite members at EHRC were on strike over redundancies and budget cuts, management emailed compulsory redundancy notices to 10 of its staff.
The ten individuals were offered six months’ pay in lieu of notice and given 24 hours to clear their desks.
PCS organised lunchtime protests at the EHRC offices in Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Manchester. Reps also leafleted outside Cardiff office.
Pledge of support
In London, Finola Kelly, a PCS union rep, was one of the members who had received a compulsory redundancy notice and was leaving her office for the last time today, with her personal belongings packed in a trolley. Janice Godrich, PCS national president, was at the offices with a large group of supporters and described what had happened to Fiona as “absolutely disgraceful” and “very humiliating”.
She said, “I’m really, really pleased at the amount of people who have turned up today, not just from PCS but from other unions and organisations, to show support, and I know that that’s happening all over the country at other EHRC offices.”
“We’re giving a pledge here today on behalf of PCS that we’ll continue to fully support these members until their justice is restored.”
At the Birmingham offices, all other EHRC staff were told not to attend work today as it would be ‘upsetting’ for them. This meant the sacked workers had to go into an empty office to clear their desks, accompanied only by two PCS full time officials.
Zahid Nawaz is a PCS union rep and one of the staff who was given a compulsory redundancy notice yesterday. He said, “This is unprecedented treatment by EHRC. I have been fighting for equality for over 17 years and all I have been given is 24 hours’ notice. This is clearly targeted action by the employer. There is a culture of trade union victimisation in EHRC and this is it coming to a head. The EHRC don’t want PCS and Unite in the workplace.
“Any scores created from the redundancy selection criteria have been disregarded in this decision: they have targeted staff who are part of minority groups.”
The other PCS member sacked in the Birmingham office is a disabled army veteran.
In Glasgow around 200 people gathered outside the office to hold a guard of honour for EHRC members as they came out in support of their colleagues. Many staff were very emotional and some were in tears. PCS members from across the city were joined by mebers from other unions including GMB, UNITE and UNISON. MSPs and MPs including Chris Stephens, who has tabled a motion on the cuts for the Scottish parliament and is chair of the PCS parliamentary group, also joined the protest.
A message of support has been received from the PCS parliamentary group of MPs. The letter says, “The PCS Parliamentary Group is appalled and shocked by the actions taken by the CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission which has led to the sacking of nine PCS members.
“The Parliamentary Group are aware of the vital and difficult work which is carried out by staff working at the Commission on a daily basis and to be treated in such a disrespectful way in alarming. The Government should be pursuing an agenda of equality and justice throughout society but by allowing the shocking treatment of its own staff within the commission shows their disregard for the most vulnerable within society.”
The group promised to fight for the members’ jobs and rights in the coming weeks within parliament and some other MPs who are not members of the group have also sent solidarity wishes via email.
How you can help
- Please send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tweet to @savetheehrc
- Write to the EHRC chief executive officer Rebecca Hilsenrath at EHRC, Fleetbank House, 2 – 6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8JX.