BRITAIN’S equalities watchdog is in hot water for its “harsh and potentially discriminatory” treatments of striking workers who they sacked by email.
SNP MP Chris Stephens told a Commons debate on Wednesday night that of the 10 Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) workers sacked, seven were black or minority ethnic, four are Muslim and six are disabled.
The Glasgow South West MP described it as “astonishing” given the EHRC’s remit in challenging inequality and discrimination.
Mr Stephens also warned that the spectre of blacklisting hung over the sackings as three of the workers held elected roles on their union’s branch committee and one was even the union negotiator leading efforts to ward off compulsory redundancies.
And he said the sacked 10 were being denied the chance to seek redeployment within the EHRC or Civil Service — where they would have priority access to vacancies — because their contracts has been terminated with pay in lieu of notice.
Mr Stephens said: “The treatment of the workers concerned is not only harsh, but I would argue potentially discriminatory and contrary to everything the organisation is tasked by this house with delivering.” The sackings send out a “very dangerous message to rogue employers,” he added.
The EHRC is facing a 25 per cent cut over the next four years on top of a staggering 70 per cent in real terms since 2010.
Mr Stephens said that despite a rise in hate crimes there had been a “dramatic” reduction in the number of cases taken to employment tribunals. There has been a 71 per cent drop in the number of cases challenging sex discrimination, a 58 per cent drop in race discrimination cases, and a 54 per cent drop in disability discrimination cases.
Universities and Science Minister Joseph Johnson confirmed that the EHRC was facing a total budget cut of 68 per cent from 2010 to 2020, which he claimed was down to a change in its remit.
EHRC workers took their sixth day of strikes against the redundancies and budget cuts on Wednesday.
Labour MSP Richard Leonard, who visited the pickets to offer support, said: “These are workers who, day in and day out, work to protect our human rights and struggle against discrimination [and] are now themselves the subject of a tyrannical management style.
“For them to be treated this way is shameful. It reflects badly on an organisation that does such important work.”
Three more days of strike action are planned for March 20, April 18 and May 17.