ENVIRONMENT MINISTER Michael Meacher has clashed with Environment Agency workplace stress champion Alan Dalton after refusing to renew his contract as an Agency director.
Meacher told Dalton in a letter sent before Christmas that his three year contract would not be renewed when it came to an end on 31 December.
During the last three years, Dalton has increasingly campaigned about workplace health and safety issues within the Agency such as stress, bullying and accident rates.
But his relationship with the Agency board deteriorated recently, after he was ordered by Agency chairman Sir John Harman to stop investigating workplace health and safety issues in the North East (NCE 20 September 2001).
Meacher's decision not to renew Dalton's contract came after he subsequently sought the minister's support for his investigations.
In his reply to Meacher, Dalton expressed frustration at the failure of his attempts to raise staff issues with the Agency board.
'I am proud to have raised at the board the health and safety issues that Environment Agency staff have alerted me to - like the regional variation in accident rate, vibration disease and workplace stress.
'I am also proud to have acted as a voice for the ordinary people whose actions, and often more inactions, the Environment Agency impinges upon. It's a great pity that you think there is no place for such views on the Environment Agency board.'
Meacher said in his letter that Dalton had failed to accept the views of the rest of the Environment Agency board when raising his concerns.
Meacher also said in his letter:
'The board has collective responsibility for running of the Agency and individual members for accepting corporate decisions once they are made.
'It seems clear, however, that as a board member, you have not felt able to do this, so that your relationship with John Harman and the rest of the Agency board has irretrievably broken down.
'Such a deterioration of trust cannot form the basis of effective working within the board, which must be my primary concern.'
Meacher continued: 'In addition, you were originally appointed, at least in part, because of your trade union background, and it seems clear you have lost the confidence of senior trade union leaders.
Against this background, I regret that I have no alternative but to decide not to reappoint you to the Agency board.'
Dalton challenged the claim that trade unionists were behind Meacher's decision not to reappoint him.
'As for the views of your unnamed 'senior trade union leaders', it is a pity that they could not tell you in what way and how I lost their confidence.
Surely not by taking up the above issues?' says his letter to Meacher. 'You have shot the messenger, ' it adds.
Dalton also said that he was unaware that his relationship with the board had broken down irretrievably.
Dalton joined the Agency in January 1998 having worked as a health and safety official at the Transport & General Workers Union.
A Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs spokesman said of the decision:
'Dalton's three year term on the board finished at the end of 2001, and the environment minister decided not to reappoint him. We don't discuss individual details.'