Unite Head Office Have Been Bullying Their Unite NHS Lothian Branch and Trying to Stop a Whistleblowing Hotline Flyer

Pat Rafferty and Unite Legal Team have been harassing the Kids not Suits campaigner Pete Gregson over the flyer that their NHS Lothian Branch decided to fund. They have also driven the chairperson to resign. Here is the press release about the first part:

Unite the Union castigates whistleblowing campaigner and faces backlash from members

A successful whistleblowing campaigner who through activism and a petition managed to ensure the employees at the City of Edinburgh Council were furnished with an independent whistleblowing hotline, which has been praised publicly by the Council themselves, has been attacked by Britain’s biggest union Unite, for trying to do the same in NHS Scotland.

Pete Gregson (58) from Edinburgh had submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee calling for a staff hotline and Lothian Health Board’s Unite branch asked him along to their branch meeting to talk about it.  At the unusually large meeting, Mr Gregson not only got unanimous support for his petition but also for the Branch to donate £500 to enable 50,000 leaflets to be printed and distributed to all hospitals in Scotland to highlight the petition.  That’s when his problems started.

Mr Gregson wrote to Unite bosses to seek their help in getting the flyers out to Scottish hospitals. He had planned to spend this coming weekend driving around Scotland’s cities and wanted Unite campaigners in every NHS Region to assist in taking the flyers off his hands, so that they might put them round their local hospitals.

In response, Unite bosses in Scotland and London then began attacking Mr Gregson, initially by threatening letters from their legal department informing him that he could not use Unite’s logo and threatening to sue him if he did.  In fear of court action, Mr Gregson removed the logo but then Unite insisted he remove its name too. It was confirmed in an email by the branch chairman that Mr. Gregson had been given permission to use the local Unite logo, so Mr Gregson refused. Unite bosses then told the Lothian branch to stop the cheque that had been democratically voted on and passed to him to pay for the leaflets.

The petition has the support of Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and also cross party support from SNP, Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Further support has come from both the Scotland and UK Patient’s Associations, Action for a Safe and Accountable People’s NHS as well as Lothian Health Board’s Unite branch.

Ms Dugdale , who was the first politician to sign the petition for the hotline, said “the culture of bullying in NHS Lothian is out of control and it has been that way for a number of years.”  Andy Wightman, the Green Candidate (who is expected to be elected on their Lothian list) said “I will support it.  We have seen how whistleblowing can actually help improve public services in other organisations.  The costs for an independent whistleblowing helpline are not as great as the costs of inaction on this subject.”

Members of the union today complained that the full-time officials were “riding roughshod over our branch democracy”.  One member, who wished to remain anonymous told us “It was one of our biggest branch meetings of recent time and all members voted unanimously to support Mr Gregson’s petition and donate £500 to allow 50,000 leaflets to be printed.  We hoped that our comrades throughout Scotland would help distribute the information to make life better for all staff.”

We contacted Unite the Union through their press office and asked the following questions:

  • Why did the full-time union official ask for the cheque to be cancelled?
  • Does the Union support independent whistleblower hotlines?
  • Is the union aware of the highly publicised culture of bullying in NHS Lothian specifically, but also throughout Scotland?
  • As the branch has voted to support the campaign using their own money, what rules allow the Union to deny them their democratic right?

Pauline Doyle, the Union’s Director of campaigns and communications, refused to answer all questions stating only that “we have written to Mr Gregson to set out our case.”  Scottish Unite executives Elizabeth Cairns and Mary Alexander did not return calls for comment.

Earlier this year Unite were forced into an embarrassing settlement when another whistleblowing activist who had been a member of the union for 42 years discovered he’s lost his unite job when he received his P45 in the post from the Union.  The activist Martyn Reuby, (60) had claimed that the union were using zero-hours contracts whilst at the same time being the biggest objectors of them and that he had been denied his basic employment rights.  The father of three had sued the union for £200,000.

Mr Gregson, who campaigns through Kids not Suits to help Government govern better, said “ I would still like volunteers from Scottish cities to offer to help me in taking flyers into their local hospitals. I can’t understand Unite’s actions, but the job in hand is to get this flyer into hospitals. If the union can’t – or won’t help- maybe your readers will instead. I will be driving round Scotland this weekend with the flyers. Readers can contact me through www.kidsnotsuits.com and I’ll drop them off a bundle. Unite will not silence this campaign.”

  • ends –

The letter Unite sent to Mr Gregson “setting out their case” and all the threatening e-mails are in a pdf which can be dowlonloaded here: Supplementary Info- WhistleblowingUniteBullies. The full letter from Pat Rafferty can be downloaded here PAT RAFFERTY 190416

More info from Pete Gregson, Kids not Suits and here http://www.kidsnotsuits.com/nhs-staff-whistleblower-hotline-parliamentary-petition/

Kev Ferguson, Chairperson, Unite NHS Lothian Ex-Chaiperson, c/oKids not Suits

Mary Alexander, Unite Depute Regional Scottish Secretary, 0131 556 9676

Pauline Doyle, Unite Director of campaigns and communications, and Unite Press Office 0203 371 2065

Petition can be viewed at www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/WhistleblowerHotlineNHS

The video showing the politicians support is at: https://youtu.be/gkKrgKI4PvI





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