Thursday 9 March 2017

Pembrey Unfair Dismissal case - Council "put me through hell"

The judgement has been issued for the Employment Tribunal held last month against Carmarthenshire Council for unfair dismissal. The claimant, Mr Eirian Morris, whistleblower and former manager of the ski centre at Pembrey Country Park won his case for unfair dismissal.

Those who have followed this, and the wider scandal, will be aware that part of Mr Morris's case was that it was his whistleblowing disclosures which led, after 27 years exemplary service, to him losing his job. The Tribunal did not find that this was proven but did find that the whole restructuring procedure which left Mr Morris in a 'pool of one' for redundancy was flawed, or shall we say, foggy, and that the evidence that he was eminently qualified for a new, similar post was mysteriously misrepresented.

In this case, the wider background, much of which is on this blog, and the fact that one of the main perpetrators of alleged criminal impropriety was allowed to resign, despite being under disciplinary procedures, whilst Mr Morris found himself out on his ear, speaks volumes about the council's treatment of whistleblowers.

MP Nia Griffith gave a strong reaction earlier in the week which can be read here.
In a completely separate case referred to in the Unison press release below, Mr David Lewis described the council's behaviour as "awkward and obstructive" and that he was made to feel "segregated and bullied". Shameful.

It remains to be seen just how much money was lost to the authority during the lengthy period of mismanagement at the Pembrey and Millenium Coastal Parks, and just how far up the pecking order the knowledge of events went. I know what I think.

Organisational Management Structure, Carmarthenshire County Council

Unison press release;

An employment tribunal has forced Carmarthenshire County Council to pay tens of thousands of pounds in compensation after concluding it unfairly dismissed an employee working at Pembrey Country Park. Ski centre co-ordinator Eirian Morris was found to have been unlawfully treated when he was made redundant and supported by his trade union, Unison and law firm Thompsons, he has received the maximum permitted payout.

After the second five-figure payout to an employee for unlawful treatment in two years, Unison has condemned the council’s employment practices as woeful. The trade union lambasted executives for having spent public money on unwinnable cases and said it should instead concentrate on improving how it supports staff.

The employment tribunal ruled the council’s approach to Mr Morris’s redundancy was “not satisfactory”; that it “did not act reasonably” by failing to advise him of alternative positions and that it deprived Mr Morris of any opportunity to challenge the criteria on which the redundancy was based.

Eirian Morris said,
“Carmarthenshire County Council turned my life upside down and put me through hell. I suffered a horrible period of stress and depression as a result. An independent tribunal has recognised that the authority behaved unreasonably and ruled a significant award should be paid as recompense. I knew I was right all along and belonging to Unison allowed me to take on the council and win. The truth is though, if executives had acted in the proper way this whole process could have been avoided and I might still have a job.”

Mark Evans, Unison branch secretary said,
“This is the second five-figure payout we have won from the council in two years. The unlawful treatment our members suffered significantly impacted on them and their families. I question why public money is being spent defending the indefensible.  The council needs to use its time and resources looking at improving employment practices, rather than spending thousands of pounds employing lawyers.

“This is a timely reminder why everyone should be a member of a trade union.  Without Unison's legal support, Carmarthenshire County Council's unlawful practices would have gone unchallenged.”

Just last year, Carmarthenshire council was forced to pay thousands of pounds to refuse collector David Lewis after failing in its duty of care to find him suitable alternative employment when he beat skin cancer with surgery.

The council has also been censured by the Wales Audit Office. It concluded in 2014, that the local authority acted unlawfully by letting the chief executive opt out of a pension scheme to avoid potential tax payments. 


Anonymous said...

Ah, chickens coming home to roost. There is an expression - pay peanuts, get monkeys. However this cannot really be applied in the Councils legal departments as good old linda legal must be on a pretty penny versus her ability, otherwise interpreted as way out of her depth. So in this instance the council is twice shamed. Not only paying over the odds, but a 'monkey' to boot is the result.

Given the previous shambles resulting in defeat for the council surely some effort to improve things would have been made to prevent such further occurrences?? Of course not. Coupled with legal incompetence, or just incompetence they undertook to actively pervert & impede the course of correct actions here, indeed, perverting the course of justice possibly, but that would be for a higher court than a tribunal to determine. The fact the highest possible payout was awarded speaks volumes on volumes.

This is just the tip of a very rotten iceberg and I suggest more will follow.

Perhaps the best course now is to keep the dark lord in place so when the opportunity arises to evict him from office it can be achieved in style, hopefully to a holiday at HM's pleasure.

Anonymous said...

Why are the Unions so supportive of some employees but not of others? I know of many employees that have had legitimate cases but their trade union hasn't supported them.

Anonymous said...

Carmarthenshire County Council's treatment of whistleblowers needs to be urgently investigated.
In my view the Human Resources department needs a big overhaul too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 22.51. Having a legitimate case is one thing, having the maens and method to prove it is the other! Without evidence, Unions are unable to source legal representation for their members. The litigative process may be a complex one at times, but fundamentally, it always boils down to a single principle, 'can you prove it?' The burden of proof is yours.
Should anone else find themselves in a position similar to that of Mr Morris, then the best advice would be to record, collate, and timeline the whole catalog of events as they unfold, and seek the assistance of your Union as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

So glad it has all been revealed at last. A very long, arduous struggle over the last few years for Mr Morris, and his family. My confidence in this council is now zero. Whatever they say or do now, there will always be a high level of disbelief. The council seem to be an institution who's default setting could be : "To fail the rate payers of Carmarthenshire" a new logo perhaps?

Unknown said...

My union did not want to look into my case. From the start they seemed unwilling to look into how we as whistleblowers had been treated. The union could have deduced the Whistleblowing policy was not followed as I was copying in GMB to receive any correspondence including emails I sent to the CCC officers and others. They told me to draw a line under the fact our concerns had not been handled properly by POVA so were in essence following the Management's line of not wanting to deal with the Institutional Abuse or the Department's failure to protect the vulnerable service users. The union supplied me with a solicitor who would not look at any of my documentation so as time went on I asked for material under the data protection act. I asked for a different solicitor but they would not hear of it so I dispensed with his services. I did the best I could but lost at the ET. It was not something I'd like to do again but I was supported by two of the other whistleblowers who had spoken up in 2010 too. The ET and PIDA are not designed to protect the whistleblower or encourage whistleblowing as the panel seem to ignore any proof that employers did not follow procedure including the need to avoid conflicts of interests. Maybe I should have listened when their barrister started to make an offer for me not to go ahead with my claim the first day of the ET. I don't expect it would have been much but I cut him short and said I was going ahead. Had I had decent representation and with my evidence I think the outcome would have been different. I was out of my depth. Still I don't regret sticking to my guns and trying to hold the CCC to account for their failure in protecting the vulnerable service users. In fact even though I am no longer their employee I am still a whistleblower and am still supposed to be protected under the flawed PIDA.