Friday, 28 November 2008

A knock in the night

This silly man, who happens to be Conservative spokesman for immigration, was held by the police for nine hours because they suspected him of leaking classified Home Office documents. Now he has the temerity to complain. What hypocricy! There is a genuine public purpose in keeping sensitive material confidential. It is done to protect state secrets and - sometimes - industrial and county documents too. We have laws about data protection. We rightly punish those who offend. Damien Green's action was foolhardy. He richly deserved the arrival of nine armed officers at his home. Other MPs might choose to reflect on this incident and wonder when their door bell will next ring.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Read All About It

My extremely able Human Resources expert, Richard Crouch, has been lending me a hand with some important correspondence. Those wicked souls in Unison are flexing their miniscule muscles again. But Richard and I have now written to all the councillors and 17000 staff with the facts:

"You will have received an email from Unison last week concerning SWOne, the recent Tribunal and the actions taken by the Council concerning the associated breach of its data. Without wishing to inflame the situation or prejudice the various investigations that are taking place, it is now incumbent on us to inform you of the Council's position.

As acknowledged by Unison, it has conducted a long campaign in Somerset against the ISiS project and the creation of SWOne and this has included Unison lodging a claim with an Employment Tribunal for an alleged failure to consult. The claim was lodged against SWOne Ltd, Taunton Deane Borough Council, as well as the County Council, despite there being no complaints made by those staff who transferred to SWOne nor those remaining within the Councils.

The original claim was a general claim concerning those staff who had transferred into SWOne, but it was only in the very last moments prior to the Tribunal Hearing, that Unison focused and re-directed its claim to staff not just from within SWOne, but also to those from the rest of the Council. This effectively meant that the potential claim for compensation went from circa £5M to one in the order of £75M. Unison's claim, if won, could have inflicted considerable damage on the Council, on its ability to deliver its services and ironically, on the Council's ability to secure the employment of many staff who deliver our services.

The Tribunal published its findings last Thursday, with the result being that Unison lost its case.

When the witness statements were exchanged a few days before the Tribunal Hearing, it became apparent that Unison had accessed the Council's payroll system and used the data of just over 300 staff. This was undertaken without the Council's knowledge or authorisation and with the intention of sharing the information in a public hearing. The Council's lawyers immediately took this up with Unison's lawyers who confirmed that it was a small number of Unison's branch officials who had done this. Unison’s lawyers also confirmed that what had not been accessed was the type of personally sensitive material that could lead to identity fraud. Such confirmation led to the Council concluding that there had been a breach in its systems and a breach of the Data Protection Act.

The Council immediately instigated its own internal investigations into the matter which are still on-going, but to date they have confirmed what the Council had been told by Unison's lawyers. As a result, it can be confirmed that one Unison Shop Steward has been dismissed and that the Unison Branch Secretary has been suspended, pending an investigation.

To add a further dimension to this issue, the Information Commissioner is now conducting his own investigations into the matter and will be interviewing a number of people under caution. This action of the Commissioner is not, as being reported, due to the Council raising a complaint to his office about Unison, but simply due to the Council fulfilling its obligation to inform the Commissioner of the breach and to reassure him of what the Council, as the Data Controller, is doing about it.

As a consequence, the Council's own investigations are running parallel to the Information Commissioner's and we understand that Unison itself is also conducting its own investigations into the matter.

The actions taken by the Council to date are entirely appropriate to the situation and in line with its policies and procedures in dealing with such serious issues. Irrespective of whether a member of staff is a trade union official or not, these policies and procedures apply equally.

Lastly, to put things into perspective, at this stage in the investigations, the Council believes that this serious breach is down to a very small number of Unison officials from within the Council’s Unison Branch. It does not reflect on others within the Branch, nor the Unison Regional Office, nor Unison nationally. As such, the Council and the Unison Regional Office are working closely on this matter and on employee relations generally to help ensure that they maintain to be as positive as they have been in the past."

That is telling 'em!

Friday, 21 November 2008

A waste of everyone's time

This irrelevant group of activists is now being dealt with firmly. The tiny handful of members will soon be substantially depleted in a continuing process of industrial relations cleansing.

"This Branch has campaigned continually to draw the attention of Councillors and senior managers to what it believes are significant drawbacks of a joint venture company to run a range of administrative services for Somerset County Council and others.

This Branch has commissioned independent research work that has provided advice to Councillors about the issues involved. It has advocated this advice to the Council and articulated its views through correspondence, presentations and discussions at Authority officer meetings, industrial relations consultation meetings and at the public speaking times of Council Boards and meetings.

This Branch has sought information from the Council about the proposals but, at all stages, access to information has been restricted such that the Freedom of Information mechanism for obtaining information has had to be used by the Branch.

In addition to considering that the general anxiety of the Branch about the proposals has been disregarded, the Branch believed that it had not been consulted properly over staffing issues at the time that the contract was signed to engage the Council with the joint venture company Southwest One and felt obliged to pursue its concern at an Employment Tribunal.

The Branch has conducted its campaign through its Branch Council of elected Branch Stewards and Officers. The Branch Secretary, as the leading officer of the Branch recognised for industrial relations liaison by the Council, has necessarily had an extremely prominent role in undertaking the campaign of the Branch, with the full support of the Branch endorsed at regular Branch Council and other meetings.

This Branch Council is extremely alarmed at the way in which its Branch Secretary and some Stewards have been treated by the Council since the closure of the Tribunal hearing. It believes that the treatment has been disproportionate and considers that an atmosphere of victimisation and corporate bullying has been created by the Council, so undermining the proper conduct of industrial relations. This conflicts with recent assurances given by senior Human Resources managers to regional and local UNISON officials that they wanted to build good industrial relations.

This Branch Council expresses its whole hearted confidence in its Branch Secretary, that he has undertaken his role in the campaign in good faith, with commitment and to the best of his ability.

This Branch Council anticipates that the regional and national tiers of UNISON will also be alarmed at the impact on industrial relations of an inadequately addressed instance of corporate bullying and instructs its officers to liaise with the South West Regional Secretary to ensure that the position is resolved in accordance with UNISON’s policies. "

If these absurd luddites want to be taken seriously they should behave seriously.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Justice must be swift

I am not prepared to countenance any more pleas for mercy. This time it is vital to make examples of those who have erred. My council did not get where it is today without unswerving loyalty to the Chief. I run a tight ship. It is my duty and responsibility to punish miscreants severely. You have all been warned. My spies are everywhere. This time there will be no hostages.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Congratulations !!

Bexley, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and Walsall are in there with us - but I know in my heart that Somerset County Council deserves the prize. As many of you will now know we have been shortlisted in the prestigious category for public/private partnerships for next year's LGC Awards. And as everyone knows there is no public/private partnership more adventurous and exciting than SouthWest One. Together we have created something fresh and unique in Local Government. And the big pickings are still to come. I confidently expect that the plaudits of the judges will come our way when I travel to London to meet them next month. Last year Somerset Waste Management was among the finalists for the Management awards. But now we are ready for higher things. We have the expertise. We have the experience. We have the makings of a remarkable new IT system. But above all we have a rock-solid base of loyal and hard-working staff. No wonder our good friends at 4Ps are sponsoring this particular award. I see stars in our eyes already.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Goodbye Guantanemo - Hello Somerset

In the heady aftermath of his overwhelming victory I recalled President-elect Obama's firm pledge to scrap the internment camp known as Guantanemo Bay. In view of his aspirations this is a pledge that makes sound common sense. But it leaves an important custodial deficit which must be addressed. I believe that Barrack's loss can be Somerset's gain. We are already well equipped to deal with institutional/organisational terrorists and the development of a secure holding place for Al Quaida terrorists and others is also within our capability and grasp. My colleagues in SouthWest One are already discussing with IBM the technical niceties of keeping these people safely locked up in our excellent county. I have also earmarked a potential site - that disused airfield up on the Blackdown Hills. I will be working tirelessly from now on to win this important new contract. Let me know what you think. This could provide valuable new jobs for Somerset.