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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Workers urged to speak out
NHS nurse
Public sector staff are being encouraged to blow the whistle
A national charity which encourages workers to blow the whistle on wrong-doing in the workplace will take centre stage at a special conference in Edinburgh this week.

Public Concern at Work (PCAW) wants to spread the message that you "won't lose everything" if you complain about fraud and corruption.

It will be promoting its message to a variety of organisations at the CIPFA Better Governance Forum-organised conference at the Holiday Inn in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Harry Templeton, the Scotland director of PCAW, said employees should realise that they now have legal protection to speak out, thanks to the UK Public Interest Disclosure Act which came into effect in July 1999.

It encourages people to raise concerns about malpractice without fear of dismissal.

'It's not my place'

Mr Templeton said: "The legislation was important, we had worked for it over many years.

"However, the law has only been the first step. Changing the culture of the workplace is at the crux of seeing real change happen.

PCAW logo
PCAW says it is trying to make a difference
"Getting the law in place helped to concentrate minds and it forced bosses to look at the message and not at the messenger.

"But companies still have the tendency to say how can we keep this in-house, how can we prevent it from reaching the media?"

Mr Templeton believes too many workers say "I don't see it as my job to blow the whistle".

His plea is for staff not to shout out when it is too late.

Mr Templeton said: "You might finally act at a time when the future of your company is already in jeopardy.

"Whistleblowing no longer involves having to be brave or being equated with having a lack of ambition at work.

If you blow the whistle today you might make a difference for all of us tomorrow
Harry Templeton
PCAW Scotland
"This is about ordinary workers having concerns, knowing something will be done if they come forward and knowing they will not suffer repercussions afterwards."

He added that whistleblowing was not simply a matter for the commercial sector.

Mr Templeton said: "The public purse suffers to the tune of millions each year because of fraud and corruption within public sector bodies. So if you blow the whistle today you might make a difference for all of us tomorrow."

PCAW's Scotland director appears to have every right to talk tough on whistleblowing.

Sacked by Maxwell

In the 1980s he was the lone voice speaking out on a pensions scandal which rocked the media industry.

As a senior union official working as a printer for the Mirror-owned Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail in Glasgow he was appointed a trustee of the company pension scheme.

At board meetings, Mr Templeton challenged media magnate and Mirror Group owner Robert Maxwell about the way he planned to use the pension funds.

Robert Maxwell
Robert Maxwell got away with defrauding millions
The questions were too much for Maxwell and he sacked the troublesome printer in 1988, vowing he would prevent him from working in the media industry again.

After the newspaper boss died in 1991 the true extent of the fraud was revealed - some 400m had been taken from the pension to expand and support Maxwell's other businesses.

Mr Templeton said he was not sure if the disclosure act would have helped him during his time with the Mirror Group, but he believes it will help many workers now.

PCAW, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, handles some 3,500 calls of concerns each year and has helped people blow the whistle on hundreds of cases of serious wrongdoing in the UK.

The top issues include:

  • safety risks

  • financial misconduct

  • unfair trading

  • and double standards

If you want free, confidential advice about blowing the whistle over wrongdoing at work call 020 7404 6609 or email helpline@pcaw.co.uk

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