Bosses of the new Angus Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) have been accused of fostering “a climate of fear to suppress bad news” .
GMB Scotland Organiser Helen Meldrum said staff fearing for their livelihoods are being told to keep quiet while the public are being “kept in the dark”.
She said Angus Council staff working within the AHSCP were issued with a ‘gagging order’ when service head George Bowie sent out a letter to employees.
AHSCP denied it was a ‘gagging order’ and said the letter simply reminded them of their obligations under the Angus Council employee code of conduct which includes never publicly criticising the council through the media or speaking to the press unless authorised to do so.
“AHSCP is fostering a climate of fear to suppress bad news,” said Ms Meldrum.
“It’s remarkable that the council are trying to shut down their employees concerns given the massive cuts to this crucial service and the significant impact this will have on both staff and the service users.”
She said it was time for an “honest debate” about what this will mean for the future of care across Angus.
“Instead, the council would rather that staff fearing for their livelihoods kept their mouths shut and the public were kept in the dark about what these cuts will mean for some of the most vulnerable in our local communities,” she added.
“This is what austerity looks like in Angus and it’s utterly shameful.”
The Angus Community Alarm, which provides 24-hour cover to disabled or elderly people in a home emergency, is changing this month.
Unions have met managers of the new Angus Health and Social Care Partnership to raise fears that changes to alarm shifts will endanger clients and put responders at risk.
The paid-for service allows for response teams of two people to visit callers who may need lifting or help with other challenges.
Forthcoming changes mean the doubling-up approach is coming to an end although the partnership has agreed another employee can be pulled from “non-urgent” duties in case of emergencies.
They have asked that the service be exempt from a redesign of “help to live at home” provision, which will see up to 180 staff reapply for 96 jobs, but the request has been refused.
A spokesman for AHSCP said: “Angus Council staff working within the AHSCP have not been issued with a ‘gagging order’ but were sent a letter reminding them of their obligations under the Angus Council employee code of conduct.
“This code of conduct was agreed with the trade unions at a local level and applies to all council employees.
“It is based on a national code of conduct developed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in recognition of the fact that the public expects a high standard of conduct from all council employees.
“In addition, in the letter the head of service commended staff affected by the changes on their professional and caring approach.
“However, it was observed that a balance needed to be struck between freedom of expression and ensuring that service users and the public are not unnecessarily distressed, and that the organisation for which they work is not brought into disrepute.”