Caerphilly Council - shocking examples of spying on workers’ private lives

Council wastes another £150,000 - this time spying on workers' private lives

Lobbying the Labour group

As the Penyrheol by election takes place today in which the Trades Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) are standing young trade unionist Jaime Davies as a candidate, it has been revealed that Caerphilly Council spent £156,000 in the last three years on spying on its own workers.

One firm has been awarded the contract for most of this spying on council workers and it was revealed in the press earlier this year how the senior council officer responsible for awarding them the contract, was appointed chief executive of the company on leaving his job with the Council.

This is a council rapidly acquiring a dirty reputation. It is the Welsh Labour Council being investigated by police over the 'secret' awarding of huge pay rises to senior council officers. Such was the outcry when that story broke that UNISON members working for the Council, suffering a 3-year pay freeze, held a walk out and lobby of the Labour Party Group meeting. They protested that Labour and Plaid councillors had voted these awards through at the same time as carrying out cuts to services and to the terms and conditions of their workforce (see "Caerphilly council workers protest against bosses' pay hike").

Some of the council workers who were spied upon are challenging, with the support of their trade union, whether the council followed correct procedures designed to prevent unwarranted surveillance from their employer who are prepared to go to great lengths to intrude into the private lives of their employees.

According to the Western Mail the council claimed it was working within the law: "Covert surveillance is only undertaken in exceptional circumstances where there is evidence or suspicion of fraud, criminal activity or malpractice by an employee against the council and where the employee is already suspected of breaching trust and their contract of employment."

But a council worker was able through a Freedom of Information request to access requests from council managers for surveillance of employees. According to the Western Mail these included: "Would it be possible to arrange a couple of days surveillance on [redacted]. As yet, I do not know the reason [redacted] is off [work] … Don’t know yet why [redacted] is off, and I’ll get our usual form to you once full details are known."

Another a email shows the extent that the bosses will go to probe into the private life of council workers: "We need to know everything about this employee – who [redacted] lives with, what [redacted] doing etc".

UNISON, GMB and UNITE need to demand an enquiry across Wales into the surveillance attitudes of Welsh councils on their workers. The council bosses seem to be mirroring those of in the private sector who believe that they own their workers and have no compunction in interfering in their private lives outside of work.

Yet another example of why we need councillors that represent the working class. Another reason for TUSC to get councillors elected to Caerphilly council to stand up for workers. Good luck to Jaime Davies today!

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