Union attacks Ihug "cowboys"

A union official has hit out at the 'cowboy culture' in staff relations at Ihug, citing the case of two helpdesk staff and union delegates who were sacked after their expletive-ridden emails regarding new individual employment contracts were passed on to Ihug management.

A union official has hit out at the "cowboy culture" in staff relations at Ihug.

Darien Fenton, national secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, said in a statement yesterday that "positive publicity" about Ihug founders Nick and Tim Wood "failed to dig deeper into the 'cowboy culture' of their workplace.

Fenton said that while assisting workers with contract-related issues at Ihug, the SFWU found rules pertaining to staff were made up as they went along and changed to suit the circumstances on the day.

He said two helpdesk workers and union delegates, Nigel Howe and Stephen Miles, were sacked when Ihug distributed individual employment contracts.

These workers, said Fenton "had been requesting a wage review and a written contract for a number of months. The workers responded by discussing with each other what they wanted in the contract and some of this discussion involved email correspondence.

"Nigel and Stephen wrote private emails from their home computers criticising the contract offer. These emails, which contained expletives, were given to Ihug and the delegates were sacked on the premise that the language used was unprofessional and inappropriate."

The Employment Court subsequently granted an interim reinstatement injunction, putting Howe and Miles were put back on Ihug's payroll until the case can be heard in the Employment Tribunal later this year.

"These are young workers who are often in their first job and simply wanted to know what their rights were and have their voice heard in their workplaceā€¯, said Fenton.

"Nigel and Stephen did nothing wrong in trying to organise a collective response to the contract offer using the language, means and style of communication common in the workplace.

"It seemed that Ihug found it unacceptable that workers could question their management practice.

"We see a worrying trend emerging in employment relations within the Information Technology field. These workplaces are the sweatshops of the 90s, with staff working long hours in crowded conditions for wages that don't respect their skill level."

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