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Community challenges covert surveillance of workers

13th September 2016

Jacquie Thomas, who works at Tata Steel in Llanwern, spoke for Community at the TUC Congress in Brighton. She was speaking in the debate about the use of CCTV in workplaces.

Here is her speech (check against delivery):

I’m a steelworker at Tata Steel in South Wales.jacquie-thomas-tuc16
I’d like to tell you about some events that took place a short time ago at Port Talbot steelworks.
Events that threatened to damage industrial relations beyond repair.
The situation arose when the company suspected that a team of riggers were sleeping during the night shift.
The riggers are a reactive team who often spend a lot of their shift waiting around for work.
Rather than talking to the local union reps to resolve the issue the company took the outrageous decision to deploy hidden CCTV cameras in rest areas.
The company deployed those cameras for one reason and one reason only – to gather evidence to discipline and dismiss.
And as a consequence thirty riggers were sacked.
Thirty workers thrown on the scrapheap – simply because the company chose to pursue dismissals instead of addressing and resolving the issues at hand.
Because there is no doubt that had HR approached our representatives to consult on the use of CCTV the situation would have be averted.
The company chose to prioritise detection over prevention.
At the cost of our members’ livelihoods.
This is completely unacceptable.
And to make matters worse the manager responsible for overseeing the riggers received no sanction at all.
Congress we must be clear – covert surveillance has no place in any workplace – unionised or otherwise.
And if surveillance is ever to be used then union reps must be fully consulted.
And employers must not be allowed to install cameras to gather evidence to sack people.
It’s not just about the law – it’s about industrial relations.
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