SIC chief executive David Clark has come under more fire for his decision to “delete” the position of assistant chief executive Willie Shannon, with unions describing his behaviour as “intolerable”.
Mr Shannon arrived back at work after a family holiday late last month to be told without warning that his post no longer existed. It is part of a shake-up which is to see the creation of a new senior management position to oversee the drawing up of a long-term £100 million capital programme.
Mr Clark insists he has acted in accordance with proper protocol, having taken advice from the SIC’s organisational, legal and human resource departments. At a media briefing on Tuesday he said: “The unions were consulted and I’m not going to conduct industrial relations through the media. That is all I have to say on it at the moment.”
But Unison branch chairman Brian Smith said the SIC had singularly failed to consult the unions over the proposed changes, describing Mr Clark’s claim to the contrary as “complete rubbish”. He said the council had failed to follow proper procedure, adding that such behaviour was “intolerable” and could leave every council employee at risk in the future if it was allowed to go unchallenged.
“I noticed with great interest that the chief executive said he was confident he had followed procedure,” Mr Smith said. “He couldn’t have departed more radically from normal procedure, both local and legal procedure.
“The whole purpose is to make sure that if a director intends to reorganise his department or delete a post, for instance, that they should consult with the people in the job or jobs and consult with the trade unions. There’s no delegated authority to do it without that. Unison was provided with a fait accompli here.
“The point is not just that it’s boring bureaucracy but to protect the staff, and protect the council against legal challenge. In this case I’m extremely concerned that this type of behaviour is going to be regarded as acceptable – it means anybody might expect to be treated in this way.
“Formally he is still the assistant chief executive, despite the fact that Dave Clark thinks it has been completed. I’m afraid that when [Mr Clark] says he followed the correct procedure, that is incorrect – it was extremely faulty procedure, and the consequences of that remain to be seen.”
Mr Shannon, who was the reserve candidate when Mr Clark was appointed as chief executive earlier this year, said the news had come as a major shock to him, his wife and his five children. He had been advised following interviews for the post back in May that his job was going to be clarified and was led to believe that it would be “a step in the right direction”.
“I was absolutely delighted at the direction in which things seemed to be moving,” he said. “I came back from holiday on 20th August and was notified … to attend a meeting on 24th August along with a number of other officials to discuss ‘a new role’. I was not given any inkling that this was about me – I had not been consulted at any time about this.
“I was told that my job had been deleted following informal discussions between the chief executive, some senior officials and some elected members. Again, I was unaware that any of this was happening. Clearly, this came as a huge shock and the consequences for me and my family are potentially very severe.”
Mr Shannon, a lawyer himself who moved to Shetland to work for the local authority 18 years ago, said he had taken expert employment law advice which had been “very encouraging”. As far as he is concerned he remains the council’s assistant chief executive and intends to return to work at some stage.
He has worked in a variety of different temporary and interim roles having initially started out as a trainee solicitor in 1991, with postings including that of coastal zone manager, project manager for colleges and training and head of economic development, before being made assistant chief executive in 2006.