The Independent London Newspaper
18th September 2018

Former Camden Council official, Ronke Martins-Taylor, claims promotion snub ‘racism’

    Ronke Martins-Taylor

    One of the most senior Town Hall workers takes tribunal action

    Published: 25 March, 2010
    by CHARLOTTE CHAMBERS and RICHARD OSLEY

    A FORMER member of the Town Hall’s senior circle of staff has claimed she was forced out of her job after enduring racial and sexual discrimination at the hands of colleagues.

    Ronke Martins-Taylor, who headed Camden’s youth offending team, said the council failed to promote her to assistant director level and ignored her requests for a pay review, even though she was given longer hours and more work to do.

    She moved to a job at Redbridge Council after handing in her resignation in March last year, but this week told an employment tribunal in Victory House, Holborn, that she had not wanted to give up working for  Camden, where she earned more money.

    In a written statement, Ms Martins-Taylor claimed she was effectively the victim of constructive dismissal.

    She names Andy Knowles, the former headteacher at Hampstead School who is now an assistant director in the council’s children, schools and families department, as the man who blocked her promotion by not answering her requests for pay reviews.

    He is due to appear before employment judges later this week.

    Ms Martins-Taylor is one of the most senior figures at Camden ever to have brought the council to an employment tribunal and the most high up since auditor Joe Laidler won a case against unfair dismissal two years ago.

    She said that white colleagues were given pay rises and promotions while her requests for a review were ignored.

    Before she left, Ms Martins-Taylor told an “exit meeting” that she intended file a grievance against the council.

    “It should be noted that at the point when I raised the grievance I was not aware that I had been a victim of racism or sexual discrimination,” she said. 

    “I had naively believed all the excuses that Andy Knowles had given me. However, having raised the grievance, reconsidering all the treatment that I received at the hands of [Mr Knowles] when compared to my colleagues of non-black African origin and or male origin made me aware that I was being discriminated against on the grounds of my race and my sex.

    “Like most people I believed my line manager [Mr Knowles] would act upon my request for a pay and grading review.

    “It took almost two years to finally accept that Andy Knowles was not going to do as he said he would do. The two years [I waited for a review] is a testimony to my trust, deep conditioning, and belief in the honesty of senior managers. This trust was gradually broken.” 

    Ms Martins-Taylor claims that in a council shake-up of posts she saw her workload dramatically increase to 70 hours a week without any extra pay. She said she was left dealing with hundreds of extra emails a day to reply to.

    Ms Martins-Taylor said she was headhunted by a recruitment firm for her new post in Redbridge but said she only decided to leave Camden because she felt undervalued.

    “The move from Camden to Redbridge has resulted in significant financial loss and disruption to my personal life,” she said. 

    “The London Borough of Redbridge is in Essex and it is considered to be an outer London borough. Higher salaries accrue to those who work in central London. Although I am now emploued as an assistant director in Redbridge, I am earning approximately £24,000 less than I would have if I had a similar job in central London where assistant directors earn approximately £100,000 per annum.”

    Ms Martins-Taylor claimed that her daily life had been turned on its head.

    “My husband and I both used to work in Camden and in the mornings we would drive the 8.9-mile, 35-minute journey, into work together discussing our plans for the day,” she said. “I would then drop my husband off at his place of work and proceed to my office. At the end of the day I would collect my husband and we would drive home together discussing our respective days. As newlyweds it helped cement our relationship. 

    “Since April 14th 2009, things have been considerably more disruptive. If I leave work after 5pm on a Friday it can take up to two and a half hours to travel the 14.7 miles home because of delays through the Blackwall tunnel. 

    “I only took the job in Redbridge because of Andy Knowles’s persistent refusal to deal with my reasonable requests for a pay and grading review. Due to its distance from my home in south London and the financial loss I have incurred I would not, under normal circumstances, have taken a job in Redbridge.”

    Ms Martins-Taylor’s case, set out yesterday by her barrister Elizabeth Melville of Bindmans law practice, is that up to 10 separate requests for a pay review and an appraisal, spanning nearly two years, were ignored by Mr Knowles. 

    In one incident, on November 15 2007, she formally wrote to Mr Knowles asking for a review but did not receive a reply. 

    She alleges that a white male colleague in a similar role, Anthony Brooks, the former police borough commander, was treated differently and promoted to assistant director  level.

    Like Ms Martins-Taylor, he joined Camden in 2003 as head of a department and both were on the same pay grade.

    But in 2007 he was promoted and she was not.

    Ms Martins-Taylor also alleges two white female colleagues in the same department were given better terms.

    The tribunal continues. 

    Comments

    no need

    for racism

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