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Stressed Environment Agency staff unite for private legal action

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY staff are so frustrated at the perceived culture of bullying in the organisation, that they have formed a Rebel Alliance and plan to launch a private prosecution against the Agency.

The news came this week as the Agency confirmed that its stress policy statement, which was expected last month, would now be published at the end of the year.

Leaders of the Alliance are frustrated at the non-appearance of the policy statement, plans for which resulted from a stress risk assessment carried out by the Agency. This assessment found that the Agency was in breach of Management of Health & Safety at Work legislation in its treatment of a 'stressed' civil engineer (NCE 14 October 1999).

A source close to the Alliance, which is made up from over 50 Agency staff past and present, confirmed that a civil prosecution against the Agency for mismanagement of stressed employees is being considered.

The Alliance is being spearheaded by current and former staff at the Agency's Leeds Laboratory. A spokesman said the results of the HSE's investigation into bullying at the laboratory would decide whether or not to launch a prosecution. He added: 'Our lawyers have been very encouraging. We want everyone in this laboratory to be amply compensated and to see the two bullying managers removed.'

Another recent stress audit of the Agency's North West region carried out by the public service union Unison has also found employees stretched to breaking point by stress. The report says that the main causes appear to be related to the Agency's culture, structure and the way people are managed.

The Environment Agency said this week that while it could not comment on the Rebel Alliance it now expected to make its new policy statement on stress at the end of the year.

A spokesman said: 'Focus groups have thrown up a lot more information than expected which has implications much wider than stress management and we plan to have it by the end of the year. Staff will then be consulted.'

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