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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Equality and Human Rights guardians victimised

EHRC members stand firm
Tory hypocrisy over employment rights exposed as Equality and Human Rights Commission staff strike again over sackings and victimisation.

ARMs members may remember the long-running dispute over budget cuts and compulsory redundancies between members of PCS and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). You can play your part by supporting the Strikers.

PCS members at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are to take 20 days of rolling strike action starting today in support of their sacked colleagues. This follows 7 days of strike action taken between November 2016 and March this year.

The strike action includes the following dates:
  • EHRC Glasgow - 15 May to 19 May 
  • EHRC London - 22 May to 26 May 
  • EHRC Cardiff - 29 May to 2 June
  • EHRC Manchester - 5 June to 9 June. 
What ARMs members can do?
It is not an easy decision to take strike action. You can support our PCS members in the following ways:
  • Send motions and letters of support from your regional branch to PCS at
  • Lobby your MP to expose the Government's hypocrisy (literature supporting the dispute is available from your PCS regional office). 
  • If there is an EHRC office in your area, invite their PCS rep to your next meeting. 
  • Go along to the picket line in your area. 
  • Organise for your regional branch to get as many members as possible to visit the picket line. 
  • Make a donation to our Fighting Fund which is used to support our members who take strike action. 
The key facts about this dispute are as follows:

Nine staff were given dismissal notices on 9 February, some by email with just 24 hours' notice; three members of staff were also sacked by email a few weeks later. After representations by PCS the EHRC have agreed to put staff back on to the pay roll but the dismissal notices have not been withdrawn and the staff concerned are banned from EHRC premises, their reinstatement is also part of the campaign

Agency staff
The Commission has spent over £260,000 on agency staff in the first 5 months of this year whilst at the same time trying to substantiate an argument that they need less staff. The union argues that the Commission have not justified the need to cut staff numbers.

However even if the Commission could justify a need for restructuring then the staff should be redeployed into Commission vacancies - more than 30 of which have been identified within the Commission, some of which are the equivalent grades of the sacked staff - or found roles in the wider civil service.

The EHRC is responsible for ensuring other public bodies consider the equality implications of their actions. Yet they have clearly failed to apply the same standards to themselves.

Of the eight union members issued notices of compulsory redundancy, six are black or minority ethnic, five are disabled and seven are older workers. Four are union reps and one was a lead negotiator opposing the cuts. PCS are now pursuing legal action against the EHRC for victimisation

Making the EHRC toothless
These cuts could threaten the Commission's UN-accredited status as a human rights body. Mark Serwotka says "The fact that the government has cut the Commission to a quarter of its original size demonstrates the Tories' lack of commitment to equality and human rights issues. Further budget and staff cuts would leave the commission toothless at a time when more needs to be done to tackle hate crime and discrimination."

More information on the dispute can be found on the PCS websitewith more info on the renewed strike action here.

Barry Fuge
National Assistant Secretary

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