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Oct 16 - GGCA Has “Serious Concerns” About Government’s Handling Of Collective Bullying Complaints

The GGCA union has criticized the Government’s handling of bullying allegations within HM Customs. The union says that, despite a previous agreement, complainants have not been kept entirely separate from the alleged bully and, to date, no interviews of the complainants have been conducted by the investigating officer.

A GGCA spokesperson said: “On the 14th June 2018, the GGCA submitted seven bullying complaints to the chief secretary. Due to the strong nature of some of the allegations made, the GGCA had to press to achieve a physical separation of the alleged bully and the complainants whilst the bullying complaints were investigated.

“As the measures that were initially put in place by the Collector of Customs were felt to be insufficient, a meeting was held on the 25th June 2018 where It was agreed that, in the interests of all parties (both the complainants and the alleged bully) that the alleged bully would be transferred away from all areas where complainants work, to include Customs House and all adjacent offices. It was part of the agreed protocol that, to ensure the alleged bully did not have to leave his assigned place of work that any matters requiring engagement with Customs House would be dealt with by the Assistant Collector (Enforcement), who would take any paperwork to the alleged bully ‘s place of work. This protocol was put in place to ensure that no interaction occurred between complainants and the alleged bully, to protect the vulnerable complainants whilst the investigation was ongoing, and to protect the alleged bully from any future incident potentially leading to further complaints.

“On the 29th June 2018 a meeting was held with the GGCA and the complainants where seven of the complainants signed forms permitting disclosure of their statements to the alleged bully. It was explained that an investigating officer had been appointed, who would be interviewing the complainants as part of the investigation. The complainants’ summer leave entitlements were noted by Human Resources for this purpose. However since that date, no interviews have taken place. The GGCA have not had disclosure of any statements made by the alleged bully, even though those have been requested by the GGCA’s legal advisor in writing, indeed on our legal advisor’s request on the 14th of September the GGCA was informed that dates for the interviews would be provided shortly – to date, no such arrangements have been made.

“Even more importantly, the alleged bully has been attending the offices adjacent to Customs House on multiple occasions in the past week, in breach of the protocol agreed with the Chief Secretary and the Collector of Customs (Acting) in June 2018. Very worryingly, this has led to one of the complainants coinciding with the alleged bully in Customs House, the very scenario the GGCA fought to prevent and avoid completely since the investigation began. We feel that the GOG is, failing its duty of care to the complaints by placing them in this highly vulnerable situation, indeed, it even leads to the suspicion (unfounded or otherwise) that these are intimidatory tactics employed to encourage our members to withdraw their complaints before the interviews are conducted.

“It is extremely unfortunate that, in raising these issues with the official side, that the Chief Secretary and the Collector of Customs are very busy dealing with Brexit issues to devote themselves to this matter. The GGCA will be meeting with the Collector tomorrow to discuss this issue. In the absence of written guarantees that the agreed protocol will be strictly adhered to and that the investigation will proceed promptly (with timescale provided,) the GGCA will have no option but to revert to its HM Customs membership to obtain a mandate for any next steps to be taken.”

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