Equalities watchdog faces strike action

Written By: David Hencke
Published: February 11, 2017 Last modified: February 11, 2017

Compulsory redundancy notices were expected to be issued to staff at the Equality and Human Rights Commission this week as  unions PCS and Unite pledged themselves to further one day strikes until May.

The first day of strike action was expected to be 9 February, when compulsory redundancies were expected to be handed out to nine members of staff including union activists, disabled and black and ethnic minority people. The other dates are 1 March, 20 March, 18 April, and 17 May.

In addition to these five days of strike action, there will be a work to rule from 10 February to 28 February; from 2 March to  17 March and from 21 March to 28 March.

The decision by EHRC to sack staff follows months of talks at ACAS to try and secure an agreement as part of a programme of cuts being introduced at the organization, which has seen its staff cut by 70 per cent since 2010.

Lois Austin, PCS national officer with responsibility for the EHRC said in a memorandum to members: “None of us, not one of us, wants to take strike action.  It causes stress and anxiety, and places enormous pressures on each of us financially and emotionally.

“But the one thing we have to protect ourselves and each other is the ability to stand together, to fight collectively against the worst excesses of a management intent on riding roughshod over employment and anti-discrimination laws, and on wiping out the presence of unions.

“….we need to send a clear message to the Commission that we are not prepared to stand by and watch them target these individuals for no other reason than they think their face doesn’t fit or because of their trade union activities.”

The EHRC does admit it is under pressure to be able to continue its job in monitoring and taking action to deal with inequality, racism and discrimination against gay, disabled, women and black and ethnic minorities.

David Isaac (pictured), the part time chair of the Commission, told MPs on the Joint Committee on Human Rights last month: “If we were to endure any further cuts we would be cutting into bone. We are at the limits of what we can do to discharge our statutory duties.”

About David Hencke

David Hencke is Tribune’s Westminster Correspondent