Unionists vote against ‘whistleblowing’ policy

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A ‘WHISTLEBLOWING’ policy is to be introduced by Magherafelt District Council despite unionist objection.

The nationalist controlled council is one of the last local government bodies to adopt the policy.

Sinn Fein Councillor Peter Bateson told the monthly meeting it offered increased safeguards for workers rights and protection for council staff and workforce should they have a legitimate grievance.

But the DUP’s Paul McLean said with the council’s workforce, management and councillors currently enjoyed good relations, and such a policy could “bring disharmony.”

He was of the opinion that the council did not need the policy as there already was enough transparency and openness for workers to seek readdress.

Supporting his party colleague, Sinn Fein Councillor Sean McPeake said most councils’ have introduced the policy and it fell to them to do so on Magherafelt.

He said it would offer better protection and safeguards for the workforce.

SDLP Councillor Jim Campbell said he did not like the word ‘whistleblower’ as it could be used by someone to “get their own back.”

He recalled the local government auditor said the council did not have to introduce the policy, but just noted it did not have one.

The nationalist members voted for the motion while the five unionist councillors voted against. Speaking after the proposal was adopted Councillor Bateson said: “Sinn Fein brought forward this proposal which brings Magherafelt District Council into line with most other councils within the North and in line with Local Govt Audit Office Best practice recommendations.

“The policy will offer increased safeguards for workers rights and will add to the protection of council staff and workforce should they have a legitimate grievance within their workplace.   “What was of dismay to me on tabling the motion was the opposition from the Unionist parties within the council who voiced opposition and who voted against it. I cannot understand why Unionists do not want increased rights and protections for council staff should a staff member wish to make a genuine complaint in the event of a grievance being committed.

“Indeed their stance is very much at odds to DUP Minister Poot`s assertion in a letter to  all 65,000 staff within the Department of Health (on the same day as council vote was taken) that he was committed to the very highest standards of conduct, openness, honesty and accountability... and that he supported the right to `whistleblow`.

“The DUP need to explain why their concept of whistleblowing is quite acceptable within certain aspects of the public sector departments  and not acceptable within others such as local government?”