Shortly after Socialist Worker went to press this week, the CWU union announced that activist Pat Carmody had been reinstated in his job at Pell & Bales call centre. The CWU announcement is copied below.
A stark message of defiance and trade union solidarity delivered to the bosses of a London-based call centre has led to the reinstatement of a CWU activist who was sacked for speaking out in support of a suspended colleague.
CWU Capital branch's Pell & Bales section secretary Pat Carmody was told of his reinstatement this morning – a week after more than 40 protesters gathered outside the Old Street call centre to noisily voice their fury at his dismissal for submitting a short article to a weekly newspaper.
The four sentence article, published in the Socialist Worker, simply and factually accurately reported that a well attended meeting of CWU members at the Old Street call centre had launched a campaign to defend a fellow worker – and that many colleagues had 'signed a petition calling for the charges to be dropped'.
At the time, CWU national organising secretary John East pointed out that the response was curiously at odds with the generally ethical stance of Pell & Bales, which provides outsourced call centre functions for a host of Third Sector clients.
These include charities Oxfam, Action Aid, Christian Aid, Cancer Research UK, the World Wildlife Fund, the NSPCC and Unicef – and a number of trade unions including the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).
'This is a very disturbing case which highlights many of the workplace problems faced by call centre staff. Pat was carrying out standard trade union activities and has been victimised for this,' said John.
'Staff at Pell & Bales believe passionately in what they are doing and often feel a strong affinity with the charity they are representing. This action by the company against their colleague could be very damaging for morale and sends a worrying message from what is known as the 'ethical' sector.'
Commenting today on Pell & Bales' change of heart, John told the Voice the move was 'a victory for common sense' – but added he was very doubtful whether it would have occurred had it not been for the CWU's strong response.
'I think there were a probably number of factors that influenced the company's decision, but I suspect the common theme of them all is that they simply weren't expecting the level of outrage that Pat's sacking triggered,' he said.
'I certainly don't think they were expecting the scale of protest that the CWU organised last week – and which we know could clearly be heard from inside the building when Pat's appeal was being heard.
'I also think the company was genuinely shocked at the level of support Pat has received from his colleagues, many of whom have been going in to work wearing stickers demanding his reinstatement.
'Other factors may well include the fact that the issue even reached Parliament, with an Early Day Motion lodged by Labour MP for Mansfield Alan Meale – seconded by the Tory MP for West Worthing, Peter Bottomley.
'I'm certain, however, that the company was also influenced by a strong message of disapproval from employees of a range of Third Sector organisations which Pell & Bales counts amongst its clients.
'We know for a fact that the company has received a number of letters from outraged Third Sector employees saying that Pat's sacking had led them to question whether Pell & Bales was an ethically sound-enough organisation for their employers to continue doing business with.
'Certainly a number of the letters we have received – and there may well be others that we were not copied into – make that point very forcefully, with the writers not just articulately voicing their disgust, but threatening to formally raise the issue with their own employers unless Pat was reinstated.'
John went on to congratulate both the Capital Branch for their solid backing for Pat through the Appeal process, and the members who work at Pell & Bales for defending one of their own and the right to organise as the CWU.