Three CSL workers were sacked before xmas, for whistle-blowing. They had the cheek to expose their employer's inefficiency and poor level of service in its privatised housing benefits operations.
CSL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu - the privatised housing benefits company. London Borough of Newham contracted out most of its Housing Benefit (HB) service to CSL in June 1999.
Housing Benefit is paid to the poorest and most vulnerable in our community to help with housing costs. It is a complex benefit to administer and the council publicly admitted ‘teething troubles' with the company. The combination of performance targets, cost-cutting, a backlog of work and ‘private sector management methods' have had an impact on service delivery. In a recent radio interview about the problems the company was having in its numerous HB contracts, CSL spokesperson Ian Scotter admitted; “we were naive in estimating the work involved (in administering housing benefits)”.
Staff have dared to speak out in defence of a service and the welfare of workers at CSL, and have been sacked for it. Such is the working atmosphere, and the treatment that they are receiving, that staff are leaving on an almost daily basis. They are not being replaced, which increases the workload for those left. Now, elected staff representatives have been sacked for taking up these issues with CSL on behalf of the rest of the staff.
Some local authorities have admitted that “outsourcing” (privatising) housing benefits has not worked. CSL seem fearful of public scrutiny of the service. The implications of what has happened are wide ranging. If it continues, people applying for benefit will receive a poorer service. New Labour plan to roll-out privatisation across the country and CSL management are scared that if their tactics are exposed it may affect their chances of getting more lucrative contracts like Newham. If you claim Housing Benefit, work for a local authority, have concerns about housing issues, or have an interest in services in the public sector, you owe it yourself - help stop CSL and their likes.
Solidarity pickets have been taking place in support of the sacked workers. In Sheffield, where CSL are also dealing with privatised housing services, there is widespread sympathy with the sacked workers. Several workers at the CSL housing office offered support for the campaign.
Meanwhile, the legal process for the CSL3 continues. The Interim Industrial Tribunal could have recognised that the sacking could have been due to union activity. This would have ensured that the CSL3 would get wages until the full tribunal. However, UNISON sabotaged the Interim IT by failing to inform it of the case. As a result they have now been victimised by the bosses and trampled on by UNISON. With families to feed, they remain sacked without pay for doing what any decent people could be expected to do.
Support the CSL3 - discuss it in your workplace and alert your union - offer support. Contact us - we aim to raise the profile of this scandal, and we need your help to do this. Question your local privatised council services – see if the same or similar is happening in your area.
Why was I sacked?
CSL have never denied that the workers were right. Their response has been to victimise three of the workers' spokespeople. We were sacked for gross misconduct on November 20th. The main charge was “causing grave embarrassment” to the company.
The basis of the case against us is that we deliberately sought, through flyposting, handouts and correspondence, to bring CSL into disrepute. The idea is that this would damage current and future business, cause embarrassment to existing clients, and a rift between Clients and CSL. The letter sacking us was five pages long.
So CSL have sacked three people and, in so doing, put their families through misery, just for voicing the workers' concerns. Ignored by the union, UNISON, CSL workers, friends and relatives of the victimised people, have decided to set up a support group. Together with members of the Solidarity Federation, they are carrying out leafleting and picketing of the company.
Urgent support is needed to save our jobs. We feel also that this is a national issue, and joint action is needed for change. CSL are not interested in providing a good service for benefit claimants and now they're victimising and bullying the workers who dare to speak out against this situation. Who will be next?
Sacked CSL Worker
Write to any of the following and register your concern:
Kim Mason, Contract Manager, CSL Group Limited, Broadway Chambers, 2 The Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4QS.
Brian Reece, CSL Chief Executive, 1st Floor Ashton House, Silbury Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 2HG. Tel 01908 830 900 Fax 01908 848 110
John Connolly, Chief Executive Deloitte&Touche, Stonecutter Court, 1 Stonecutter Street, London EC4A 4TR. Tel 0207 9936 3000 Fax 0207 583 1198
Newham Council Leader-Sir Robin Wales, Members' Post Room, East Ham Town Hall, London E6.
The CSL3 need money for their campaign - send donations (cheques to “S. Stone”). For more information and a list of Deloitte & Touche offices, contact; CSL3 Support Group, PO Box 1681, London N8 7LE. Email; firstname.lastname@example.org