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Call for probe into bullying of council staff

THREE-QUARTERS of staff at one of Scotland's largest councils who took part in a bullying survey claimed officials abuse rank and power.

Edinburgh City Council is now being urged to hold a council-wide investigation into bullying following a union's findings in the services for communities department.

It has responsibility for a £107.9 million budget and oversees more than 3000 staff in areas from housing to road safety.

It also covers crematoriums – currently under investigation after the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal – and the refuse service, which was mired in controversy after a failed privatisation bid.

Department staff will also have to revamp the controversial property conservation department. A total £33m of repairs to buildings remain under question after claims of overcharging of householders and billing for emergency work that was never done.

Property conservation faced a fraud probe. Police found no criminality, but workers were said to have accepted gifts such as alcohol and a night at a strip club from contractors. The council said there was no evidence of the nightclub incident.

A pilot study under a Dignity at Work scheme being spearheaded by unions, who are working closely with the council, found repeated concerns.

A Unison source said the Dignity at Work working group's survey was to identify the extent of bullying.

The source said: "The results were alarming, showing 75% of respondents said abuse of rank/power was at the core of the bullying they had experienced.

A Unison spokesman said: "Members in that department think there is an issue in terms of aggressive management."

A campaign is expected to be launched for an employee survey to gauge how widespread bullying is among all 15,000 workers at the council.

Workers are to put forward a motion at the Unison branch AGM this month calling for publicity materials to be produced as part of a campaign against bullying and harassment throughout the council.

A separate motion has been put forward jointly by John Stevenson, Unison branch president and branch officer Tam McKirdy, who want to open negotiations with the council on "free expression of concern".

They said the council should offer "protection of staff raising concerns, professional or ethical issues and safeguards for vexatious allegations".

A number of department staff who claim they have been bullied are also understood to be involved in grievance claims.

A council spokesman would not say how many such grievances are currently under way.

He added: "We have no reason to believe this is an issue in any particular area of the council.

"We take incidents of bullying extremely seriously and immediate action is taken to investigate when a complaint is made.

"Our Fair Treatment at Work policy gives advice about how to report an incident of bullying and outlines support staff will receive if they wish to make a formal complaint."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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