Post Nine – The truth is Incontrovertible

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.” Winston Churchill.

Dear Convener

Hello – it’s just myself, Murdo MacLeod, your former Emergency Planning Officer.

Remember this? “The Comhairle is confident that correct procedures were followed at all times in the case of Mr Macleod and maintains that he was always treated fairly at all times.”

Oh yeah?

This was the Grievance Procedure

This is what actually happened

Aggrieved party submits complaint.

On Wednesday 07 December 2005, I raised a complaint of bullying and harassment against Katherine Mackinnon, with Helen Froud, Director of Corporate Services, under cover of a confidential note.

Head of Department (or other nominated senior officer) to reply within 5 working days.

Correct procedure followed by management so far.

Ms Froud acknowledged my communication in writing on 08 December, indicating that, in her view, the matter was at Stage 2A of the Grievance and Dispute Procedure. In accordance with the requirements of the procedure, she would arrange a meeting at which I could outline my grievance to her, accompanied by a representative, if I so wished. I advised Ms Froud by email on 09 December that I would be represented by Mr Stephen Baillie from GMB Scotland and I provided her with a series of dates when we would be available.

Stage 2A

Head of Department to arrange a meeting with the parties within 5 working days. The meeting does not necessarily have to take place within 5 working days.

Management starting to deviate from procedure.

Correct procedure followed by management so far with regard to timescales, but arrangements with regard to “consultation with the Personnel Officer of the Authority” have fallen apart.

Chief Executive has usurped the right of my Head of Department to hear my complaint.

On 13 December Ms Froud wrote again, acknowledging that the following day was the time limit for arranging a hearing and advising that she was experiencing some complications arranging this as I am unable to use anyone from the HR team to advise me. I am awaiting the return of the Chief Executive this afternoon and intend to ask him how I might proceed”.

I consulted GMB and responded to Ms Froud on 14 December to advise her that my representative had asked me to convey to her his opinion that the entire HR Section should not be excluded from this process, as my grievance is solely against Katherine Mackinnon. I also requested that she speed up the process.

Ms Froud responded that same day, 14 December, informing me that a hearing had been agreed for Wednesday 21 December at 0900 hours. She would be advised during the course of the meeting by Mr Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive.

I wrote to Ms Froud on 15 December, highlighting the difficulty an 0900 meeting would pose for my representative in terms of travel arrangements and proposing a meeting at 1200 hours instead. I went on to say that “We find your suggested deviation from procedure in your being advised by the Chief Executive unacceptable. This would preclude the Chief Executive’s involvement at a later stage of the proceedings, should the matter not be satisfactorily resolved with yourself. We see no reason why Human Resources should be kept out of this process. I am entitled to expect that Personnel Officers would act in a professional manner and that confidentiality would not be an issue”.

On 19 December, Mr Burr wrote to GMB “Given that the grievance contains reference to Helen Froud’s actions, I have decided to hear the grievance myself”. He went on to propose a rearranged meeting at 1400 hours on Tuesday 10 January 2006. Before agreeing to the proposal, GMB asked me how sure I was that I would receive a fair hearing. I replied, “I think we must give our new CE the benefit of the doubt regarding the prospect of a fair hearing”. If only I knew then what I know now!

Stage 2B

Meeting takes place.

The Chief Executive interviewed both Katherine Mackinnon and myself separately, accompanied by our union representatives, on Tuesday 10 January 2006.

Stage 2B

Timescale now completely awry.

Written reply to be made as soon as possible, but in any event, within 5 working days.

On 01 February 2006, Mr Malcolm Burr released his determination pertaining to my grievance against Mrs Katherine Mackinnon, Head of Human Resources, which I had submitted to Ms Helen Froud, Director of Corporate Services, on 07 December 2005. Mr Burr had advised my representative and I at our meeting, that there would be a delay due to other commitments.

Stage 3

Aggrieved party to appeal.

After due consideration, I concluded that the determination was unfair to me and that it contained inaccuracies which may have been based on a misrepresentation of the facts or outright lies. Accordingly, on 07 February, I wrote to Ms Froud, expressing my dissatisfaction with the Chief Executive’s determination and requesting that she “now arrange for the matter to be considered by the Grievance Sub-Committee of the Policy & Resources Committee”.

Stage 3

Timescale, what timescale?

The grievance procedure in effect at the time had no timescales after Stage 2B.

But – in March 2006, the Comhairle’s Grievance Procedure was changed to read as follows:-

Stage 3 – If the employee remains dissatisfied with the response from the Director or nominee there shall be a right of appeal to the Personnel Appeals Panel. A meeting of the Panel will be convened within 20 working days of receipt of the written statement of appeal.”

On 15 February, Ms Froud wrote “I acknowledge receipt of your notification of appeal and I will take the appropriate steps for your grievance to be considered at Member level”.

Stage 3

Timescale, what timescale?

Two months later, on 12 April, when nothing further had been heard regarding my appeal, my union representative, Mr Stephen Baillie, Regional Organiser, GMB Scotland, wrote to the Chief Executive asking what progress had been made on my grievance. This elicited no response from Mr Burr, but GMB received a letter dated 19 April from Mr Derek Mackay, Corporate Services, who advised that the matter had been passed to him.

Stage 3

Timescale, what timescale?

This deadline applies to both myself and the Chief Executive.

04 July 2006. Derek Mackay writes GMB advising a deadline of 12 July for written submissions to the Appeals Panel.

Stage 3

Timescale, what timescale?

On Monday 31 July, Stephen Baillie advised me that my appeal hearing has finally been fixed for 0930 hours on Tuesday 29 August.

Stage 3

Timescale, what timescale?

On Thursday 24 August, Derek Mackay communicated with Stephen Baillie as follows:-

“Can you give me a call tomorrow regarding the appeal next week. The CX has indicated that as he has not had sight of your submission he feels he may have to ask the Panel to adjourn the meeting as he may have to get information from other officers. He has requested that the hearing be postponed and that he be allowed sight of your detailed submission.”

Stage 3

Timescale, what timescale?

Not only had the Chief Executive not met the 12 July deadline for submitting papers to the Appeal Panel; he still had not done so by 24 August and according to procedure, he was not supposed to have sight of my submission until he had provided his own to the committee clerk for release to my representative. He got round this by merely submitting a copy of his determination with no additional information.

Procedure, what procedure?

Tuesday 29 August 2006 – my appeal against CE’s Determination fails and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Grievance Procedure is exposed as a complete sham.

The members of the panel were:

Councillor Donald Nicolson (Chair)

Councillor Angus McCormack

Councillor Neil Campbell

Councillor Roderick Morrison

Malcolm Burr had merely submitted a copy of his determination with no additional information.

My representative reported that the Chief Executive just kept repeating that he had interviewed all the relevant people prior to releasing his determination. He apparently kept on repeating this even when Mr Baillie pointed out that he had not interviewed the Emergency Planning Assistant. This appears to have been perfectly satisfactory to the Appeal Panel.

While I expected that the panel would be predisposed to support the ‘new’ Chief Executive, I am nevertheless surprised that the fact that I had demonstrated that his determination was based on outright lies and misrepresentations by my management, seemed not to matter. Nor did the clear and repeated breaches of the Comhairle’s policies and procedures by management, which I had been led to believe would be a matter of concern to the panel. One Elected Member on the panel had made frequent public representations about the manner in which Western Isles NHS Board were allegedly treating their staff. It is ironic that this Member was apparently prepared to turn a blind eye to the way I had been treated by management in the Comhairle.

I subsequently asked my GMB representative what had been the ‘killer blow’ for me. He replied that there had not been a ‘killer blow’; the panel had learned nothing during the hearing that could account for their decision.

That last indicates to me that it was a ‘done deal’ before the hearing. I had submitted clear and irrefutable proof that Malcolm Burr’s determination was flawed, which the panel chose to ignore.

This was the end of a process that did not conform with the Comhairle’s Grievance Procedure. This was the fault of management and it serves to highlight how inappropriate it is for the Personnel service to be involved in the management of an operational unit. Helen Froud found herself in the position where she couldn’t use Personnel staff to advise her in hearing my grievance. At the time, I rather naively thought that the problem lay with the issue of confidentiality. I have since realised however that Human Resources staff would have been terrified of incurring the displeasure of Katherine Mackinnon and would therefore not have wanted to be involved. This led to a wholly unacceptable delay and breaches of procedure. It seems to me that if there is a grievance procedure, it has to be capable of providing a fair platform for everyone who feels they have no form of redress other than to invoke it. It did not provide an equitable platform for me.

I feel sure that there are those in the Comhairle’s employ and among elected members, who feel uneasy about their role in the way I was treated. We would all do well to remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that once having supped with the devil, we are forever beholden. I can imagine that if one owes a promotion or a redundancy payment of thousands of pounds (to which they are not entitled because their job still exists) to a certain individual; it must be very difficult to obey the dictates of conscience and speak out. I can also understand that many people who could speak out, fear for their jobs if they did so.

I do not blame those latter, people have families to feed and take care of. So go in peace my friends; you owe me nothing.

But what about you Mr Convener, do you still maintain that “The Comhairle is confident that correct procedures were followed at all times in the case of Mr Macleod and maintains that he was always treated fairly at all times”? Do you – really?

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One thought on “Post Nine – The truth is Incontrovertible

  1. Bryan Clark says:

    Murdo,

    I only recently came across your site. I applaud the manner in which you seek the justice you deserve.

    I was once an employee of a public service at the airport, until unfairly deported to Kent in 1999. I “won” my grievance on this but lost the job! It took 4 years 1999-2003 and another 2 to regain sanity.

    Murdo, I fully empathise what you saw was a straightforward grievance. Unfortunately, they don’t play by fairness – nor wouldn’t care if you did a Dr Kelly (my grievance went to his boss Keven Tebbit – I unaware of that at the time).

    They insist you follow procedure: they alter it at a whim. They say all evidence will be put forward but only if their next judge can be sitting in the present (your former CE). By jings, I understand what these fools are trying to do to you.

    All I can say is, Murdo Well done. I guess you never wanted to start this but they did. I wish you all the best.

    Keep up the great work – it will inspire others.

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