Sacked PCS rep warns that watchdog’s axe falls unevenly
by Felicity Collier at Congress House
BRITAIN’S supposed equalities watchdog is “ripping up the rulebook” when it comes to its own staff, an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) worker who lost her job amid swingeing government cuts stormed yesterday.
Finola Kelly told TUC Women’s Conference delegates that seven of the 10 workers who lost their jobs — via email and with just 24 hours’ notice — were women.
EHRC workers have staged six days of strikes in a bid to stop further job losses at the commission — which has seen staff numbers drop from 500 last April to just 204 now.
Ms Kelly, who is still PCS union branch chair at the EHRC, said that people were targeted for compulsory redundancies, and people from ethnic minorities, older workers and those with disabilities were disproportionately affected.
While the lowest-paid lost jobs, the EHRC has hired two new executive directors at a cost of half a million pounds a year, she added. Ms Kelly blasted the “degrading” way redundant employees were made to work from home to avoid upset.
She said she was made to feel “like a criminal.”
One worker was informed that he had to hand back his motorised wheelchair, as it was EHRC property, Ms Kelly said. When workers balloted for strike action, he appeared on the picket lines on crutches.
PCS president Janice Godrich said in a statement: “Our members in the EHRC continue to face discrimination when there are jobs in their grades remaining unfilled.
“This organisation is the police force for all other employers — and what they should and should not been doing. They’ve taken the rule book and ripped it up over their own staff.”
Acting PCS president Zita Holbourne, who also cochairs Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, said that there was a disproportionate affect on black and Muslim people.
And the EHRC has still yet to publish an equality assessment on the impacts of the job cuts, Ms Holbourne said.
She urged human rights groups to write to EHRC chair David Isaac. Six more days of strike action are planned.
However, a spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “While we don’t comment on individual cases, on the general claim about the process this is categorically untrue. There has been no targeting of anyone and all decisions were made on whether individuals had the right skills and experience, and certainly not on background or protected characteristic. Our process has been fair, robust and transparent.
“It is wrong to say staff were sacked by email without any notice. This has been a long process and face to face meetings took place over many months, including notifying people at risk when their redundancy letters would be issued. We worked incredibly hard to bring the number of redundancies down to 12. The union chose to call people out on strike on the day they were expecting their redundancy notices.
“The wheelchair was gifted to that person and is awaiting collection. At no point were they asked to leave it behind.”