The board of a women’s aid charity has come under fire after enacting a ‘mass suspension of staff’ amid bullying claims.

Over a dozen workers at Glasgow East Women’s Aid (GEWA) claim they were subjected to systemic bullying by senior management for over a year and were sent home for “whistleblowing” on September 14, forcing trade union Unite to step in on their behalf.

A spokesperson for the board of GEWA said staff were sent home with full pay while an external human resources company carried out investigations into the claims.

Linda Wilson, regional officer at Unite, said that the 13 members of staff were ‘suspended’ after raising concerns over bullying with the charity’s funders.

She said: “The workers had nowhere to turn.”

The highly trained women and children’s support workers provide lifesaving services for those fleeing domestic abuse in the greater Easterhouse community.

Glasgow Times: Signage at officeSignage at office (Image: Newsquest)

Signage on the GEWA office and website states: “Due to unforeseen circumstances GEWA will be operating on a reduced service.”

Service users are advised to call Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline.

A spokesperson for the board of GEWA said that the office was open normal hours and available to service users.

They added: “No employees have been suspended; some areas of services have been altered to allow external investigations to take place.

“This was done to protect staff as well as the service users.

“GEWA facilitates external supervision counselling for all employees who need it and this is still in place whilst staff are at home.

“The suspension of services allows those who have made any allegations to be protected by staying home on full pay, and not having to experience anxiety about having to work alongside those they have made allegations against.”

Glasgow Times:

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One longstanding member of staff, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Glasgow Times: “We’re absolutely devastated at what the board have done.

“I cannot believe that any organisation that has been in the community for 30 years would just shut the doors like that, it’s disgusting.”

The worker added: “We’ve been locked out, shut out by a bullying board and management. The action they’ve taken, they’re claiming it’s unforeseen circumstances – nothing could be further from the truth.

“They’ve done this knowingly, deliberately, intentionally. We have been silenced, and now we are speaking out about bullying and cronyism in the workplace.”

Another long-standing support worker told the Glasgow Times that staff were given one hour’s notice to leave the office and were asked to leave laptops, mobile phones, and keys behind.

The worker, who was in the middle of a “supervision” counselling session and due to see two women that afternoon, said: “It was quite a shock. Thirteen members of staff had to file out of the office.

“I was expecting someone to come to oversee this, but nobody came. We just had to leave all of our stuff behind.”

A spokesperson for the GEWA board said that all service users are being supported and the organisation must regularly report to the Local Authority on how this is being carried out.

Glasgow Times: Linda Wilson, Unite regional secretary

Linda Wilson said: “The staff have legitimate concerns over the workplace environment in which they work and instead of these concerns being addressed through proper due process the management of Glasgow East Women’s Aid decided to suspend our members.

“We are calling on the organisation’s funders including Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to urgently intervene in this appalling example of workplace bullying and intimidation. “

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership said: “We are one of several organisations which provide funding to Glasgow East Women’s Aid.

“We have been made aware by Glasgow East Women’s Aid of HR matters which have had some impact on the delivery of service to women and children seeking support from them.

“GEWA has provided details of the mitigation plans in place to sustain the service and to continue to support women and children in refuge, in receipt of outreach support, and women newly seeking support.

“The HSCP will continue to monitor the service being delivered in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the women and children in receipt of service.”

A spokesperson for GEWA said: “The Board are confused and concerned that this matter has been taken to the press considering the attempts that have been made by employees already to cause organisational damage which directly impacts vulnerable women and children.

“We are looking forward to conclusion of these matters and remain concerned at the continual attacks on the business and attempts to cause organisational damage.”