A vulnerable worker killed themselves after a confrontation with union members at a “toxic” bin depot, a new report has revealed.

Meanwhile, other members of the GMB union tried to blame another employee’s heart attack on their manager and in another incident threatened to stab one of their colleagues, an inquiry found.

An independent whistleblower report has revealed a culture of abuse at Cityclean’s Hollingdean depot, Brighton, where workers are regularly violent, racist, homophobic and misogynistic to other staff members.

One employee even brought a samurai sword, nun chucks, knives and other violent weapons to work while the investigation was already underway, the report states.

Many accused in the report are either GMB representatives or among roughly ten white men described as having been protected by the union reps.

The Argus: 70 people gave evidence to the report70 people gave evidence to the report (Image: Andrew Gardner/The Argus)

Aileen McColgan KC heard from 70 witnesses from all levels within the refuse service over three months.

She said: “I heard a very disturbing account of pressure said to have been imposed by a GMB rep on a vulnerable member of staff to withdraw a complaint about bullying by two staff members who were described to me as being ‘very close to the GMB’.

“The vulnerable individual, who later committed suicide, proceeded with the complaint.

“When they later expressed a wish to return to Cityclean after a period of sickness leave and a temporary secondment, I was informed that another GMB rep made it clear that such return would not be tolerated.”

More on the Cityclean report

In another incident, GMB members said that a Cityclean manager was responsible for killing a member of staff who had a heart attack.

The Argus: A manager was blamed for the death of a workerA manager was blamed for the death of a worker (Image: Andrew Gardner/The Argus)

“I heard from a number of people about the death of a driver who tragically suffered a heart attack after returning home from a disciplinary meeting,” said Ms McColgan.

“I am satisfied that the approach taken by the council to the driver had been fair and reasonable and that those in attendance at the meeting after which he died had, with the exception of the GMB rep, been calm.

“I heard from a number of witnesses who nevertheless attributed this unfortunate death to the driver having been hounded by managers. I am satisfied that this impression was created by some of the GMB reps, one of whom called a senior manager at 7am the day after the death to accuse the manager of killing the driver.

“Despite this allegation having, I understand, been withdrawn, I heard evidence of subsequent such allegations against managers, including from another GMB rep.

“The evidence suggests that one GMB rep in particular sought to weaponise the driver’s death against Cityclean management.”

The Argus: A number of concerns were raised about a former managerA number of concerns were raised about a former manager (Image: Andrew Gardner/The Argus)

Elsewhere, Ms McColgan was told about employees who painted racist graffiti on bin lorries parked in the depot, called another staff member a “black c***”, made sexual comments to and about women, including stating “who would want to f*** that?” as one woman walked past, and pointed in managers’ faces while shouting and threatening to use physical violence and then carrying out their threats.

Union members were heard saying that women managers “don’t have a f****** clue. They’re female. They don’t know what they’re doing” and describing a woman manager as “a f****** b**** pulling the strings”.

A member of the public contacted Cityclean with an allegation of sexual harassment against a member of staff. A GMB rep is said to have been dismissive of the claims, calling them “spurious”.

The same GMB rep tried to ensure that another sexual harassment complaint was dealt with by an exclusively male panel, the report states.

The report also found workers refused to work with one member of staff because he is gay and created fake accounts on dating app Grindr to trick other gay employees.

Ms McColgan says that managers at Cityclean were unable to take action against union members - and even that they did not have the support of the city council.

The Argus: Managers felt unable to discipline union members due to the threat of strike actionManagers felt unable to discipline union members due to the threat of strike action (Image: Andrew Gardner/The Argus)

"Attempts to discipline individuals described to me as being particularly protected by GMB reps regularly result in threats of industrial action," she said.

"There have been also cases in which disciplinary dismissals have been overturned on appeal to panels of councillors.

"One manager told me that Cityclean management expected their decisions to be overturned, to be punished by the GMB reps for having made these decisions, and for the council to fail to protect them from the punishment.

"The same was true, the manager suggested, for anyone who came forward to raise a concern or provide evidence as a witness."

A large number of workers raised serious concerns for a former manager about his “violent aggression, drug use and drunkenness at work” who would also tell staff about his sexual behaviour.

Management in general was also fiercely criticised, with frontline employees saying they are overworked and forced to walk ten miles a day.

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Others accused managers of “inappropriate collusion between such staff and GMB reps” and sexualised “banter”, sexual and racist harassment and bulling. There were also reports of unfair processes relating to recruitment and deployment of agency staff.

Ms McColgan said she is “satisfied that the working environment at Cityclean can fairly be described as toxic,” and that GMB reps protect particular union members while displaying “significantly less interest” in others.

Ms McColgan found “no evidence” that Cityclean managers were hostile to union reps.

A series of recommendations has been made to address the findings with council leader Bella Sankey vowing to take action.