Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Sackers Charter 1982

Stephen Halpern (Health Service Journal)

Senior trade union officials have accused 'maverick managers' in the NHS of using the DHSS (Department of Health & Social Security) memo to regional personnel officers on managers and union activity as a justification for clamping down on trade union officials.

The accusations were made by Nupe officials at a press conference held to explain the union's position on the dismissal of deputy head porter Conway Xavier, from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Last week Mr Xavier's appeal to the hospital Board of Governors was dismissed. A planned picket at the hospital on the day of the appeal was cancelled by the union because of lack of support.

Mr Xavier was dismissed for neglect of essential duties', unauthorised absences from duty, disregard for his management responsibilities and failure to 'behave with commitment or loyalty to local management'.

Nupe claims that his dismissal was the result of a campaign of victimisation against Mr Xavier and that tills is being extended to other union officials at Great Ormond Street and associated hospitals.

At the press conference Nupe divisional officer. Harry Barker, said he was 'worried about the repercussions of the memo.

He added that the memo was without doubt the background to Mr Xavier's case.

He also claimed that health service managers didn't support the use of the memo and also the way in which Mr Xavier's case was handled.

"We are conscious that many senior administrators in London are concerned at the way the management handled the situation", he said.

Mr Barker and other Nupe officials said that although most NHS managers didn't feel the need for guidance to deal with conflict of loyalty between management and trade union responsibility some 'maverick managers' were using the memo to deal with trade union activity.

The Hospital Administrator at Great Ormond Street, Austin Lythe, strenuously denied the memo had in any way been never ' been any conflict of the memo had in any way been connected with Mr Xavier's case.

He said there was no victimisation campaign against trade union officials at the hospital and he hadn't even heard of the memo until after the question of Mr Xaviers conduct was being considered

Mr Lythe said there was no reason why industrial relations at the hospital shouldn't be excellent. He hoped that the hospital would be able to get on with its job of looking after sick children.

While Nupe's accusations against the management of Great Ormond Street are not supported, their claim that most managers do not feel the need for central support and guidance is accurate.

Regional personnel officers are believed to have told the DHSS that guidance was unnecessary and this view is backed by Martin Beardwell, chairman of the National Association of Health Service Personnel Officers, who told the Journal:

'The NHS has years of experience of trade union within the management structure. theres never been sny conflict of interest that cant be coped with Most personnel officers in the NHS are members of a trade union and never have any difficulty negotiating with members of their own union" he added

Mr Beardwell described the type of guidance referred to in the memo' as 'quite superfluous'.

Since the existence of the memo was first publicly revealed by the Journal on 12 December, it has caused a storm of controversy in several areas, with the exception of NHS managers for whom it was meant.

Shadow health spokesman, Gwynneth Dunwoody. has raised the matter in Parliament and Secretary of State, Patrick Jenkin, has said he refuses to withdraw it.

The memo has also caused a storm at COHSE, where the assistant press secretary, Chris Perry, left his job in protest at the union's response to the memo, General secretary, Albert Spanswick, decided to protest privately to Patrick Jenkin rather than making the matterpublic.

circa 1982-83

The "Sackers Charter" as the memo was referred to was the result of some managerial staff such as those in South West London who became involved with the campaign to save st Benedict's Hospital.

Two COHSE officers were suspended over the alleged leaking of the "Sackers Charter" to the press

see also articles in Daily Mirror and Hospital worker

Conway Xavier was a prominent Afro-Caribbean NUPE health activists member of the Communist Party but later joined the NCP