Thursday, August 29, 2013

Handbag Gate

We here at FCCL advocate being in a trades union, for many reasons.
Firstly, if you ever need support at work it's there and of course the more you become involved in a unions activities  the more benefits you gain.  Education and qualifications are available for members in  everything from basic skills to specialist diplomas in many subjects including employment law and equality.  But the main benefit without a doubt is
if you are up a creek without one,  a union can provide a damn fine paddle!
But sometimes as well as a belt - you need braces!

 or in the instance we are going to divulge below 
 a mobile phone with a recording function.


On the 22nd May 2013, Anthea Orchard signed a compromise agreement with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, which in part was an acknowledgement   that they (on behalf of the tax payers of West Yorkshire !!!!) had vicariously breached her human rights by  hiring a private investigation company to provide "directed surveillance" for a period of up to three months, (which included tracking her family car).  This Regulation of Investigative Powers form was signed by Assistant Chief Fire Officer
Martyn Redfearn within HOURS  of Anthea saying she was not fit for duty  on 31st October 2012. Without a shadow of a doubt she was ill and was absent for several weeks - even WYFRS cannot ignore a Fit Note from a GP! 

So, an employee who was already acknowledged as suffering from depression, hypothyroidism and work place stress was placed under (very incompetent) surveillance by ACO Redfearn.
(who is probably sighing a huge sigh of relief that he retired in early 2013 or perhaps he is getting ready to be a SCAB and add strike breaking to his list of misdemeanours)

Anyway fast forward to an office at WYFRS headquarters at Birkenshaw earlier this year...... present in the room are a  newly appointed Assistant Chief Fire Officer (and HR director) , an area manager and an HR representative, an FBU representative and Anthea  (the employee whose car was tracked ) All there to negotiate  her compromise agreement. And we have to say we don't blame her for recording the meeting, on balance we would have done it  too. It's also fair to say that nobody could have envisaged what would have been picked up by the mobile when the meeting was played back.


If you listen to the recording  you can clearly hear Anthea and her union representative leaving the room. And after a discussion about the negotiations we believe  the HR person  saying " is that her handbag" some rustling in the bag and her mobile phone being handled and then dropped back into the bag. We therefore think  the person who actually went in the bag was the area manager!

They all knew that they had done wrong by the stress reaction of silence and the nervous clicking of biro's afterwards .......which in first listening to we thought a bit funny. But by far  the worst part is the  saying "That's a bit naughty we should have asked her"  which can of course be interpreted in so many ways.

"That's a bit naughty"  (a mild reprimand  for going in her bag) 
"We should have asked her" (for permission to rifle through her bag)


"That's a bit naughty" (recording the conversation)
"We should have asked her" (if she was recording the conversation)

Either way the ACO allowed his staff  to go in somebodys handbag
when the owner was out of the room!!!!

We expect all three to be suspended, investigated  and disciplined for gross misconduct!

We have sent a copy of the recording and other names we believe to be involved to CFO Pilling and Cllr Mahboob Khan, Chair of the Authority, which will give them  an opportunity to invoke their new independent senior officer  complaints process.  We do  not believe CFO Pilling is an appropriate person to comment on his ACOs integrity, its going to take an independent person to do that. ( if independent they hopefully  are ???)
If our allegations are upheld we cannot help but wonder what the sanctions will be?

We were told recently  an FBU member was demoted for tweeting - the sanction should surely be demotion or indeed dismissal  for the ACO for allowing the tampering with of very private property by his subordinate staff. 


Its not a very good start for the  new Director of HR is it?

Having read a significant number of the papers involved with this case we will say just one thing, there is one little ray of hope in that dank immoral pit that is West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Senior Management  and it comes from Mick Smith dated 16th November 2012

 "Always there are two sides to a story" he writes. 

Yes Mick, and having given our side of events  we are keen  to hear the story  that WYFRS come up with for  going into a woman's handbag (seemingly condoned by both an assistant chief officer AND a Human Resources representative who very kindly identified the handbag on the recording for us "is that her bag"  she clearly states) at a meeting to discuss the financial settlement she was to receive for being illegally watched.

Ironic or what!

What made them rifle her handbag in the first place - does it happen often that senior officers go  through their staffs personal possessions? 

Perhaps all meetings going forward at WYFRS should be conducted with hands placed clearly on a table, which may cause problems if the need to scratch ones balls is  required, (but saying that we are  not sure anybody in WYFRS senior management have any anyway).

Heads should roll for this but we  suspect all concerned will be getting a pat on the back  despite red faces all round. 
We hear more and more of employees of WYFRS being supported and encouraged to report their colleagues who use social media to  challenge the working practices of WYFRS.  FCCL itself has been cited in  the  pension review of one of its supporters - although  the person concerned has requested via Freedom of Information the actual passages in facebook and on this blog which render the pensioner fit to work (after being retired on ill health grounds ) they  have never received a satisfactory answer. But we eagerly await the next instalment in that particular long running story........ and look forward to the day when we can blog the lot.



Anonymous said...

Incredible....what an absolute disgrace!
WYFRS Senior Management are a complete joke! They should be fully brought to task over this! It sums it all up......the appauling uncaring and bullish way that they run this Brigade is beyond belief and they believe that they are untouchable! Well.......more is yet to come......believe me......scandle after scandle......disgrace after disgrace...... SHAME on you!!!

rohan said...

Are the people running this site truly deranged? Anthea call the pot black makes covert tape recordings in blatant breach of conventions and probably her contract and you think when her managers discover this they should be criticised , get real and stay off the gin

Anonymous said...

Rohan miss the point completely.
Probably a senior manager or a friend or family member of such.

rohan said...

Don't think so. She clearly must have been hoping to secretly obtain information about what management was discussing whilst she was out with her union reps. That is disgraceful and she should have been sacked for it. You really have lost the plot on this. How can she go on tv complaining about a vehicle tracker when she was actually doing something far worse

woodward said...

I agree with Rogan , if management had tried listening in to her discussions with the union reps that would have been a proper scandal but what happened here is the reverse she was doing the secret taping and they detected it - how can the managers be in the wrong. They would have been within their rights to delete the recording. This anthea is not the hapless victim she would have us believe

Anonymous said...

But without a shadow of doubt they went in her bag. These so called public servants are beyond redemption. How low will they sink. All three have to be dismissed. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation its crystal clear what happened. The female remarks about the bag prior to the noise. They searched her handbag and even though they knew she was recording it what in reality could they say. Anthea we went in your bag and took out your mobile. Dismissal is the only option as it would be one hell of a cover up if nothing happens

Jason said...

Three words. Colin the Octopus. Senior staff treat people in very different ways depending who you are friends with. Sack all three they were all equally at fault.

Sarah Covell said...

I know bits of that story but not well enough to blog it. Repeated inappropriate touching but was allowed to retire instead of being dealt with.

Anonymous said...

Below is the list of culprits

Jim no man management Butters
Steve small man syndrome Rhodes
Christine not a clue Cooper

so which one was it??


Anonymous said...

Truly shocking Sarah. These public servants are not fit to hold office in my opinion. What prompted them to root through the handbag in the first place? Did they hear a noise from the phone? Or was it out of sheer nosiness? The fire authority had no right to have her car tracked. I see this as a huge waste of tax payer’s money. Is it any wonder why she felt she had to record the meeting? Good on her!

poppy said...

Without a shadow of a doubt they went in her bag ? - how on earth can you tell that from this tape recording ? It proves nothing. I think some of the people making comments would have hanged mother theresa for suspected dipping if they think that tape is evidence of anything. Hope they are not sitting on juries in my area because the only undisputable fact in all of this is that Anthea the workshy probably had too much helium before behaving worse than the people she criticises as in she was the one doing the secret taping, its no wonder people did not want to work with her but then they did not get the opportunity that much

Anonymous said...

Poppy - you obviously work for the fire service and will shortly be getting a pat on the back from Pilling and Co. Or did you do with their consent ? This article is not about Anthea its about the three people in the room. All of whom should have known better. I wish you well in your promotion you have the right attitude to succeed at WYFRS. Stabbing colleagues in the back - you will go far. Chris.

Jaime Graham. said...

Jaime Graham, After I left a Fire Brigade, I was a Union Rep in East Anglia for another Union. On several occasions, management at Disciplinary and Grievance hearings openly recorded meeting with the assurance that they would copy the recording to me afterwards. Without exception, I received only a typescript that was a very edited record of the meeting, sometimes with additions to the disadvantage of the member. I knew this because they did not agree with my clandestine recordings. If management6 could be trusted in these matters, there would be no need for such actions. But, in my experience they are routinely dishonest

Anonymous said...

Is there an email address I can send you a link to. I have something that could expose another CFO.

Anonymous said...

Oh my lord....!!!! I have only just found this....... How disgusting....... What happened?? Let me guess, a big fat zilch....!!!!!!! My father was a fire officer for 30 years, I grew up surrounded by good, honourable men. Today's service can not hold a light to the one I knew. Work place bullying and harrassment seem to be both common place, and accepted practice if your face doesn't fit...... I despair..... The likes if Mr Judge must be turning in their graves...... Management seem to be in the council's pocket....Grow some!!!!

Anonymous said...

Nothing happened. Complaints made at all levels and was massively swept under the carpet in Oakroyd Hall.

Bullying and harassment is how the whole situation got to where it did.

You're right, the fire service is screwed up. Too many Common Purpose people in the building now. The police helped them tone it down too... Criminal damage caused to a private vehicle, and the police wouldn't record it or press charges against the culprits. A convo with Nigel Hotson sorted that out.