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unhappy with union rep and grievance advice

(41 Posts)
rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:03:36

I want to raise a formal grievance against my employer but my union rep is actively discouraging it, despite me speaking to her several times over the years about the way I'm being treated and always trying to deal with it informally.

I do not feel an informal approach is working anymore, as the situation keeps reoccuring. I also feel that as it includes discrimination which I can evidence, and fraud amongst other things, then an informal approach is not right.

AIBU to be annoyed with my union rep? Our company (public sector) pushes informal approach then 3 stages of formal (if informal doesn't work).

I have tried to email my manager's manager and request a meeting so I have tried informal again but my requests to meet have not been responded to. I am awaiting an OH referral as I am signed off sick with stress.

This has been going on for years and I've had enough. I don't want to take an informal approach then 6 months later, the same thing happens again, which is always the case. It is starting to seriously affect my health, hence the sick leave.

My family are pushing the informal approach too because of the extra stress it would cause me (and the risk of being forced to leave and have no income).

I don't know what to do and I feel really let down by everyone. The thought of going back to work and listening to my manager denying everything and seeing her spineless manager accepting her lies, is just making me more ill.

Does anyone have any advice? I am due to meet with my union rep prior to my expected date of return from sick leave to discuss what to say when I meet with my manager (I don't want to meet my manager, I want a new manager amongst other things but her manager wants me to talk it over with her despite the bullying and discrimination, including whilst I was on sick leave!)

I'm v upset by it all.

BadPennyNoBiscuit Sun 07-Apr-19 14:04:30

Have you spoken to ACAS?

OvertiredandConfused Sun 07-Apr-19 14:07:35

You need to get some advice from someone other than your union rep, colleagues and friends or family. I’m guessing you don’t have a Employee Assistance Program? If you do then definitely contact them. Failing that I would try CAB, although the wait can be long, maybe ACAS or even a lawyer who specialises in employment law and is willing to give you an initial free consultation.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:13:55

I did phone ACAS and they said because it includes discrimination, I should consider taking it formal and get a lawyer (which I don't think I can afford and want to avoid for as long as I can).

We do have an employee assistance programme, which I have used before, but that was just free counselling.

MrsGrannyWeatherwax Sun 07-Apr-19 14:14:19

Without knowing any circumstances of your grievance (I’m not asking) it sounds as though they believe you are not being technically discriminated against. By this I mean, if you went the formal route they are assuming that it wouldn’t be upheld which would cause more upset / hurt from your perspective.

I have only limited exposure of grievances in the public sector, but I remember clearly a case which the individual felt strongly that they had been discriminated and bullied. This was not found to be the case at all, but the grievances just continued escalating and the poor individuals MH dropped drastically. Even when advised that every procedure and protocol had been followed, moving teams etc they still felt they had a case and ignored every piece of advice given. Frustrating to everyone involved.

My point isn’t that this is your case at all, but could you ask someone at work you really trust to talk through how they would deal with it? And seek their advice. If they also believe the formal route is appropriate then fight everyone for every step in the process as you need to. Equally your rep should be offering you support.

LovelyBranches Sun 07-Apr-19 14:17:33

I’m a union officer. If you aren’t happy with your reps advice go to your union and ask for your local branch Officer to represent you instead. Reps receive training from the unions but there are plenty of times when a union officer has to get involved and that’s not a problem at all. There are many times when union reps have reached a point where they don’t feel they can push any further and I go in to help them but there’s also many times when I take over from them. Phone your union tomorrow and they should be able to help you.

LovelyBranches Sun 07-Apr-19 14:18:35

Also if your case needs to go down the legal route it’s best to get the union officer involved sooner rather than later.

StrippingTheVelvet Sun 07-Apr-19 14:21:54

What outcome would you like from a grievance that raising it informally will not provide?

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:24:57

I can't go into too much detail but I would like:

an end to the discrimination
reasonable adjustments in place, and an end to me having to keep reminding people
awareness training to prevent further discrimination
disciplinary action for my manager for the fraud and victimisation
a new line manager (but not a new role as I like the role)

WoahThereMama Sun 07-Apr-19 14:29:17

What discrimination do you believe you’ve encountered and how did it manifest itself? As another poster asked, what outcome do you think formal will give that informal won’t?

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:37:23

direct and indirect disability discrimination, discrimination arising from disability, failure to make reasonable adjustments, victimisation for helping another experiencing discrimination, observing racial discrimination, bullying, harrassment, fraud. I have evidence of it all.

Informal has been tried numerous times and the behaviour stops then recontinues after a few months. I've just had enough. My mental health is really suffering now as I'm so frustrated with it all.

BadPennyNoBiscuit Sun 07-Apr-19 14:38:35

I’m a union officer. If you aren’t happy with your reps advice go to your union and ask for your local branch Officer to represent you instead.

This is a good idea.
Also, do you have a detailed incident diary?

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:55:14

not a diary no, but I have gone through emails and gathered emails across 3 years that I can use as evidence. I also have an OH report with recommendations that were ignored, appraisal records, reports and budget spreadsheets as evidence too.

My manager has bullied someone else (although non disabled) who subsequently left the organisation (but keeps in touch and is also telling me to take it formal). This person complained informally and the manager got a slapped wrist. Now it's my turn sad

If I take an informal approach and that doesn't work, there might not be a rachelzane for the union rep to speak to next time. That's how bad I feel right now. I need to make it stop. I need respect, dignity and to be taken seriously. Not to be called lazy, stupid etc on a weekly basis.

Steamfan Sun 07-Apr-19 14:57:52

Good advice about a local branch officer - or just go straight to union HQ

LittleChristmasMouse Sun 07-Apr-19 15:00:20

I understand completely OP. I have been pursuing reasonable adjustments at work since June last year. Still waiting. Involved union at every step and their view " not much we can do. The company it's outsourced to is taking a long time" and so basically I just have to wait.

OvertiredandConfused Sun 07-Apr-19 15:01:44

In addition to escalating it within the union, now you have clarified that it is disability discrimination it might be worth contacting a charity that specialises in supporting people with whatever condition you are living with. Very often they can signpost to specialist support related to that condition.

PinkiOcelot Sun 07-Apr-19 15:02:45

If you are adamant that you go this route, I would go to HR and initiate the process. Also speak to the union and request another rep - or vice versa if you think change of rep should be first.
Good luck OP. I hope you get something sorted x

MrsGrannyWeatherwax Sun 07-Apr-19 15:03:06

Your update sounds as though you’re taking the right steps, I hope you get the support you need OP.

grannieanne Sun 07-Apr-19 15:05:21

This is almost identical to my experience working for a MH charity.... same scenario... informal achieved nothing, in fact the victimisation got worse, my Line Manager psychiatric name calling me in a meeting, it was awful... he has now put in a retaliatory grievance against me, allagedly before I made mine in October, which is utter rubbish... I am being made to work in the same office as him in my phased return..I was off for a month with stress after I was acused of not being at off site premises working when I was. Now they are trying to scrutinise my mileage, im being monitored... its hideous. My union rep left in March but didnt alert me so now have to get further representation. This is all because I questioned a decision my Manager made without telling me, that would affect me quite significantly. I have had my honesty and integrity questioned and it's awful. I think the only way forward for you is to formalise this and be prepared to have a lot of mud slung your way if your employer is anything like mine.

Isleepinahedgefund Sun 07-Apr-19 15:09:51

The union aren't always useful, as you are unfortunately finding out. I recently had a similar experience where my employer was refusing to make reasonable adjustments (not even investigating the need/effect/cost, just saying flat no) and the union rep was so unhelpful. I approached the union for support with a grievance and the rep refused to help, even though I had already spoken to ACAS and the disability council and established that I had grounds for it. The usefulness depends on the person dealing with it. Fortunately I have since changed employer and union and the whole thing has gone away as I don't need the adjustment in my new organisation.

The problem with doing it without union support is that part of what the union offers is legal assistance that most of us wouldn't be able to afford. They won't give you this if you seek it from elsewhere or put in your grievance without union support, so pursue the union support. Complain about your local rep and get another one.

Isleepinahedgefund Sun 07-Apr-19 15:15:32

By the way I think your list of remedies is a bit unrealistic. You can't ask them to discipline someone else to remedy your grievance. You might have to be flexible about the role you're doing - which is more important, getting way from the manager or keeping your job?

It will be very hard for them to successfully influence other people's behaviour in the way you want re not having to remind people, again I don't think this is a realistic ask.

Just a thought, but if you ask for unreasonable things you won't get anywhere. Don't make it a wish list, focus on one or two things that will make the most impact on you and improve your experience of the workplace.

From what you've said, that is adequate reasonable adjustments and a new line manager. I've know people get those having put in a grievance about the working relationship between them and their manager having broken down.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 15:27:12


Thanks for that advice, some good points there

My manager has openly admitted in the past that she felt threatened by me and ex colleague (who was also bullied). We had started at the same time and she was originally the only person in the team doing this very specific niche job. Team has since expanded a bit, which manager does not like.

So if I leave for another role or company, manager wins, as pushing me out is clearly what she wants.

LakieLady Sun 07-Apr-19 15:50:46

I've known a few people resort to formal grievances (mostly in public and 3rd sectors), and imo they rarely succeed. Managers tend to stick together, and most managers are reluctant to break ranks and find fault with a colleague.

This is especially true when the manager hearing the grievance is the line manager of the other manager and/or has appointed them. Admitting that they're in the wrong reflects badly on their own supervision or judgment.

In the one case I know of where the complainant won, it all backfired as the employee was made redundant 6 months later. Although we all knew it was a stitch-up, they'd done everything by the book and there were no grounds for taking it further.

In another case, where a manager had been the subject of repeated complaints from numerous staff, 2 grievances failed even though the woman was an appalling bully. She was, however, put on the capability procedure and closely monitored.

In the end, she was so arrogant that she ended up being demoted and moved to a location far away, because of an undeclared conflict of interest, whereupon she promptly left. Management were delighted to have got rid of her at last, because they knew she was a bitch but there was never a cut and dried case that gave them good grounds for disciplinary action against her.

As yours is a discrimination matter, I wonder if there might be merit in contacting the Equal Opportunities Commission? They might be able to advise, or point you in the direction of someone who can.

Mouikey Sun 07-Apr-19 15:55:05

Another Union rep here - we are not all made equal and have varying levels of training and experience. In the very first instance go to your Branch Secretary and explain you concerns about your representation. Another rep maybe able to help or you could go directly to your regional organiser. If this escalated you need the union on board as you will get leagal cover/advice as part of your subs.

However, if your rep hasn’t, you need to know that grievances are awful. They are stressful even if you are in the right. There are also and always unintended consequences to raising a grievance and none of them are positive (I’m. It saying this is right, just a general observation). This is probably why your rep is advising not to do it.

In terms of your remedies:

an end to the discrimination - absolutely yes.
reasonable adjustments in place, and an end to me having to keep reminding people
awareness training to prevent further discrimination - do you have a disability? If you are in Unison they have a team specifically set up for these cases. BUT, what reasonable adjustment are you expecting? Adjustments for you or your manager? Go to OH see what they say. Also consider asking access to work to come in and support you - they can recommend technology and physical changes to help you.
disciplinary action for my manager for the fraud and victimisation - this may happen with regard to the bullying but not necessarily about the fraud. You may wish to check your whistleblowing policy and make a complaint through that process.
a new line manager (but not a new role as I like the role) - won’t happen, and you’ll look like a whinge and very unprofessional. Have you had mediation to try and improve the relationship? You should put that forward as a suggestion - will make you look 100% better than saying ‘I want a different manager’.

There is a lot going on here but ask for a new rep or go to region.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 16:05:11

so I'm expected to keep working with a manager who makes me ill, reduces me to tears, says horrible things to me in a 121 situation? I'm seriously not allowed to request another line manager? I've had a different line manager than the rest of my team before - it is definitely possible. And the thought of mediation makes me anxious - it'll just become a shouting match full of denials etc.

I do have assistive equipment through Access to Work but it is adjustments of the type that Access to Work cannot fund (eg working conditions/hours/location etc) that was recommended by OH in the past that has not been met.

I have several disabilities and my manager (and others in the organisation) expect me to be able to do things that my disabilities prevent me from doing. I have also been blocked from promotion due to my disabilities.

I don't want to lose my job, I don't want to be forced out, but I can't see myself being happy at work.

I did speak to EHRC who, in addition to ACAS, said to get legal advice, make a formal grievance, and consider a tribunal.

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