[ad_1]

A new wave of militancy is sweeping through the NHS. Despite the extra funding for healthcare just announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement, a winter of discontent now beckons for our ailing health service.

Trade unions are currently holding ballots for strike action by midwives, physiotherapists, ambulance crews and a vast range of ancillary staff. And in January, junior doctors in the increasingly hardline British Medical Association are to vote on industrial action.

At the forefront of this unrest is the once-moderate Royal College of Nursing, whose members have recently come out in favour of the first mass stoppage in the union’s 106-year history.

But what is far less well-known are the scandals bubbling beneath the surface at some of these powerful bodies. Take the RCN, which represents members of an innately caring profession. It has been engulfed in a horrendous sexual harassment scandal that has resulted in a raft of resignations.

And the RCN is far from alone. The GMB, which represents large numbers of ambulance drivers, may pose as a warrior against injustice but it too has been blown apart by a sex scandal, with reports of harassment so aggressive that one female delegate at a union event slept with furniture piled up against the door of her hotel room.

The BMA, meanwhile, has been described as ‘an old boys’ club’ in which women are subjected to ‘unwanted touching’, while over at Unite an internal study showed that more than half the union’s female officers claimed to have been bullied or harassed.

It is unions such as these, which have the impertinence to adopt a tone of moral superiority when it comes to Tory governments, that are holding secret meetings to co-ordinate their tactics and thereby maximise the disruption to the NHS.

A new wave of militancy is sweeping through the NHS. Despite the extra funding for healthcare just announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement, a winter of discontent now beckons for our ailing health service. Pictured: a nurse protesting outside Downing Street in March 2021

A new wave of militancy is sweeping through the NHS. Despite the extra funding for healthcare just announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement, a winter of discontent now beckons for our ailing health service. Pictured: a nurse protesting outside Downing Street in March 2021

And none of them poses a bigger threat to the Government than the RCN. Women comprise the vast majority of its near 500,000 members and they attract huge public support. The unprecedented walkout in support of an inflation-busting pay claim of 17.6 per cent will be difficult to resist.

But for all this swelling indignation, the RCN, which has been led since June 2021 by the charismatic, outspoken Northern Irishwoman Pat Cullen, is in danger of being torn apart by the appalling behaviour of some of its most senior figures.

On January 29, the RCN is to hold an ‘extraordinary general meeting’, at which disillusioned nurses are to propose a motion of no confidence in the union’s leadership.

What has caused the nurses to develop such disgust towards their own union bosses?

It is an ugly macho culture at the top of the union — a deeply ironic embarrassment for a body supposed to champion a predominantly female profession.

Remarkably for an organisation that is supposed to be built on compassion and inclusion, the RCN has been awash in recent years with allegations of bullying, sexual harassment, misogyny and predatory behaviour by some senior male officials.

The scandal has already led to a slew of resignations, including by five members of the union’s governing Council. Women accounted for four of these departures, three of whom were black, a profound source of embarrassment to a union that trumpets its supposed commitment to diversity and social justice.

The extent to which a toxic culture had been allowed to become embedded at the heart of the RCN was revealed by an investigation recently conducted by the eminent barrister Bruce Carr KC.

His damning report, produced last month, exposed a union that, in his words, ‘is riddled with division, dysfunction and distrust’, headed by ‘a male-dominated governing body that is not fit for purpose’.

According to Carr, a number of senior figures ‘engaged in unwanted sexual behaviours by taking advantage of subordinates’, particularly at the RCN’s annual congress where ‘large amounts of alcohol’ were consumed.

In a lacerating catalogue of abuses that ran to 77 pages, Carr recorded that ‘student nurses often received late-night phone calls from male Council members’. He added that it was ‘an open secret’ that those left alone with one representative ‘would be groped’.

Carr’s investigation had been triggered by the shocking case of Dave Dawes, the former Chair of the RCN’s Council, who is one of the new breed of health union leaders eager to take a more aggressive stance against the Government.

In May 2021, he claimed that the College should become ‘an army of activists’.

Yet, given his proclivities, Dawes was an incongruous figure to be in the RCN’s highest ranks. For he is both a supporter of polyamory — the practice of having multiple sexual relationships at the same time — while being such an enthusiast for bondage that he has given training workshops in this niche activity.

At the ‘BiCon’ festival in Nottingham in 2015 — a gathering for bisexuals — Dawes gave a so-called ‘Rope Jam’ as an ‘introduction to rope bondage’. Participants were told: ‘Please bring your own rope. Don’t worry if you don’t have a partner, though. Just be willing to pair up. People will be tying up other people and being tied up. It is a very practical session.’

At the same BiCon meeting, Dawes held another session on ‘safer sex and how to negotiate it with practice’, a somewhat ironic theme given that his union is engulfed in accusations about sexual exploitation.

In 2020 the GMB was forced to publish the report of an investigation by Karon Monaghan QC, which revealed that 'bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic' within the union. The investigation was in part prompted by anonymous accusations of assault, drug use and aggression made against the GMB General Secretary Tim Roache (pictured)

In 2020 the GMB was forced to publish the report of an investigation by Karon Monaghan QC, which revealed that ‘bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic’ within the union. The investigation was in part prompted by anonymous accusations of assault, drug use and aggression made against the GMB General Secretary Tim Roache (pictured)

Stressing his credentials for this kind of work, Dawes boasts that he is both a registered nurse and the author of a pioneering guide to sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases.

But not everyone at the union welcomed Dawes’s unorthodox presence at the head of its Council. Last year he was expelled from the College because of complaints about his conduct and his allegedly ‘hostile’ attitude to women, which he denied while saying he ‘fully intends’ to clear his name.

But his exit only fanned the flames of controversy as Carr’s investigation began and other RCN members expressed their outrage at what had been going on at the union.

‘Attitudes and behaviours have become normalised that aren’t acceptable,’ said former Council member Shaun Williams on social media. ‘As a man, I feel tainted by the behaviour of other men. It was a boys’ club.’

So entrenched is the sexism that, in a remarkable step, last September the RCN cancelled its annual congress in Liverpool and shifted the event online to protect women following the serious allegations of sexual aggression.

The stench of hypocrisy at a body that indulges in endless rhetoric about ‘equality’ is extraordinary.

See also  What is the best type of blind to buy for a home office?

There are other troubling features of its confrontational approach. One is that a major strike is bound to cause harm to patients, the very people that the nursing profession is meant to help.

In fact, there have been reports this week that the RCN — which has built up a £50 million strike fund — has secretly met five other health unions to co-ordinate their tactics and thereby maximise the disruption to the NHS. Such steps make a mockery of the idea that the industrial action is designed to improve patient safety and care.

One Unite officer, Alec McFadden (pictured), a Jeremy Corbyn fan from Wallasey, was banned for holding a position at the union after an allegation of harassment, though he denied the charge

One Unite officer, Alec McFadden (pictured), a Jeremy Corbyn fan from Wallasey, was banned for holding a position at the union after an allegation of harassment, though he denied the charge

Last month, boss Pat Cullen warned that if the Tory politicians did not listen to the union, then they ‘would destroy nursing for patients’.

She demanded that ministers ‘show a decent bit of human kindness and do not push nurses out onto the picket line’ but instead ‘give them the resources to look after their patients’.

That kind of language would be more convincing if the RCN itself was not agitating to bring hospitals to a halt. Nor do the complaints about nurses’ wage poverty sit easily with the pay of its leader Mrs Cullen, who enjoys an annual package worth £197,000-a-year.

Such rewards enable her and her husband, a GP, to live in a £600,000 terraced home in a leafy part of south Belfast.

It is the same story with Christina McAnea, the head of the public sector union Unison, which had 350,000 members and began a ballot for strike action in the NHS at the end of last month.

Brought up in Drumchapel in Glasgow, one of the biggest housing estates in Europe, she is reported by her union to receive £132,000, plus pension contributions. Her affluence is reflected in the £1.1 million South London home that she shares with her husband Robert Hill, a former Labour councillor.

Meanwhile, Karen Middleton of the Chartered Institute of Physiotherapy, whose strike ballot of its members closes in mid-December, is on £169,000, while Gill Walton, the Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives — whose ballot of its 31,000 members began last week — is on more than £175,000.

Left-wing campaigners always like to denounce high levels of executive pay. They seem less keen to criticise the strike-fixated health unions for the same offence.

The complaints about nurses' wage poverty do not sit easily with the pay of the RCN's leader Pat Cullen (pictured), who enjoys an annual package worth £197,000-a-year

The complaints about nurses’ wage poverty do not sit easily with the pay of the RCN’s leader Pat Cullen (pictured), who enjoys an annual package worth £197,000-a-year

At the end of the month, members of the GMB who work in the Scottish Ambulance Service will go on strike, the first skirmish in what is likely to be a prolonged campaign north of the border.

The GMB has 20,000 members working in the health service. But its reputation has also been hopelessly compromised by a sex scandal similar to the RCN’s, where a number of serious allegations of misconduct against senior union men led to the exposure of appallingly sexist conduct.

In 2020 the GMB was forced to publish the report of an investigation by Karon Monaghan QC, which revealed that ‘bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic’ within the union.

‘The culture of the GMB is one of heavy drinking and late-night socialising, salacious gossip and lack of professionalism,’ she continued.

Ms Monaghan said harassment had taken place including ‘touching hair, leering, commenting on body shape and clothes, placing hands around a women’s waist, staring at women’s breasts, propositioning young women, “sloppy kisses”, sticking a tongue in a women’s ear, touching knees, bottoms, and hips and slapping of a backside.’

See also  Johnny's fans feel sorry for Amber's attorney

One female worker said: ‘It is simply expected that you will have to suffer from being groped at events.’

Other earlier evidence backed up this report. At one tribunal, the GMB was ordered to pay a secretary in a regional office £300,000 after an official had fondled her breasts and made her touch his private parts.

‘The GMB is a boys’ club run by senior officers,’ said one former branch secretary.

At the forefront of this unrest is the once-moderate Royal College of Nursing, whose members have recently come out in favour of the first mass stoppage in the union's 106-year history. Pictured: NHS staff marching  in protest against a 3 per cent pay rise in July 2021

At the forefront of this unrest is the once-moderate Royal College of Nursing, whose members have recently come out in favour of the first mass stoppage in the union’s 106-year history. Pictured: NHS staff marching  in protest against a 3 per cent pay rise in July 2021

Monaghan’s investigation was in part prompted by anonymous accusations of assault, drug use and aggression made against the GMB General Secretary Tim Roache. He was even said to have spiked a woman’s drink, while another women alleged that, at an event in her hotel, she ‘ended up sleeping with the furniture of my room pushed up against the door as I was genuinely frightened he was going to try and come in’.

Roache fiercely denied the charges, calling them ‘defamatory lies’ concocted by his political enemies to take advantage of his poor health. He even successfully undertook a lie-detector test to prove his point.

Nevertheless, he left office in April 2020, citing chronic fatigue syndrome.

Other health unions are similarly in the mire. The British Medical Association, which has 173,000 members and has recently built up a £2 million war chest to fund its strikes, has been accused by some of Britain’s most senior female doctors of tolerating sexual harassment.

Yet another report, this one produced by Daphne Rooney QC in 2019, found that the BMA operates ‘like an old boys’ club’ where women are ‘patronised and harassed’, subjected to ‘unwanted touching’ and ‘lewd and inappropriate remarks’.

One doctor recorded how she was sent unsolicited naked pictures, while another complained that at a BMA Committee meeting, she heard two members ‘braying loudly at their ‘guesstimated’ bra size’ of a female colleague.

Yet, even after the Rooney report, six senior male doctors who had been identified by victims as harassers were allowed to remain in post at the BMA.

Over at Unite, which has more than 100,000 members in the NHS, a leaked internal study showed that more than half of the union’s female officers claimed to have been bullied or harassed.

One officer, Alec McFadden, a Jeremy Corbyn fan from Wallasey, was banned for holding a position at the union after an allegation of harassment, though he denied the charge.

The General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, warned recently that the NHS is ‘being brought to ruin’ by Rishi Sunak’s Government. But what really threatens the NHS is exorbitant pay claims like the nurses’ 17.6 per cent and the even more extravagant 26 per cent from the BMA’s junior doctors.

If the Government caves in to such demands, the healthcare budget will be destroyed, and inflation will spiral out of control amid a feeding frenzy by other unions.

That is what happened during the Winter of Discontent in the 1970s under Jim Callaghan’s Labour Government, as the relentless cycle of wage increases pushed down living standards and pushed up inflation to 25 per cent.

‘There is madness in the air,’ commented Callaghan’s aide Bernard Donoghue at the height of the turmoil. And just as mad is the belief that these tantrum-throwing, money-grabbing health unions are in any position to lecture the Government about fairness and justice.

Instead of dreaming of the picket lines, they should put their own squalid houses in order.

[ad_2]

Source link