WORKFORCE: Hospitality staff at Great Western Hospital in Swindon will be able to pursue claims of racial discrimination and harassment following a ruling by an employment tribunal.

The decision is the latest development in a lengthy legal battle between 51 workers and their employer Carillion, the company which provides the acute trust’s facilities management services.

The tribunal claims relate to the workers’ allegations that they were subjected to bullying and discrimination by managers.

They claim management showed favouritism over awarding holiday over the Christmas period and sought gifts in return for granting annual leave.

The GMB union had tried last year to amend the employees’ claims, first submitted in summer 2012, to add further grievances claiming harassment and additional instances of racial discrimination. However, these applications were turned down by a tribunal judge in March 2013.

The trade union appealed against this initial decision at an appeal hearing in July last year.

Last week, the Bristol Employment Tribunal handed down a decision that the employees could now take forward their claims, with more than 170 proposed amendments.

Maria Ludkin, GMB’s national officer for legal and corporate affairs, said: “GMB members have consistently claimed they suffered race discrimination, religious discrimination and other detriments at the hands of Carillion managers at Swindon Hospital.  

“Carillion has consistently fought to have these claims reduced. Now that the employment tribunal has agreed that these claims are about serious issues of race discrimination GMB looks forward to the opportunity for our members to tell the real story in court.” 

A Carillion spokesman said: “The recent decision by the employment tribunal to allow certain amendments to the existing claims was taken on technical grounds only and was not a determination on the merits of these. 

“We are pleased that since the claimants’ application to amend their claims was first brought a number of claims have not been allowed to proceed. 

“Carillion disputes the merits of the claims and does not believe they are supported by the facts. We will continue to rigorously defend the claims.”

A spokesman for Great Western Hospitals Foundation Trust said they were continuing to work with Carillion to “ensure they remain focused on providing a high quality service to the trust”.

A 30-day employment tribunal hearing is expected to take place later this year.