A RACE row erupted in Huddersfield Town Hall last night.
A leading councillor and a top union official were involved in a heated exchange over the long-running Unique Care dispute.
The Birkby-based company is paid by Kirklees Council to look after elderly people in Birkby, Fixby and Fartown.
In January Unique Care sacked 12 care workers after they went on an unofficial strike to protest against the dismissal of home care manager Sonia Senior.
Four other employees who were either sick or on holiday at the time were also dismissed.
And yesterday a union official told the monthly meeting of Kirklees Council that the women, all of whom are black, thought the issue was racial – though he made clear that he didn’t share this view.
Kirklees Unison branch secretary Paul Holmes said: “In the 37 weeks since their dismissal, the women have had very little support. These women have to live but they’ve nothing to live on.
“If you ask them why the council won’t support them they will say it’s because they are black. They think that if they were white someone would have shown an interest in them.”
Responding to his comments, Kirklees Council’s Cabinet member for health and adult services Clr Margaret Bates denied the claim.
She told Mr Holmes: “I found it very distasteful what you said. The council is very sensitive to all people regardless of their colour or creed. I’m quite disgusted that you can come here and say what you did.”
Unison has asked for Unique Care’s contract with Kirklees Council to be cancelled and for the sacked workers to be employed directly by the council.
But Clr Bates said the best option for the women was an employment tribunal.
Mr Holmes confirmed to the Examiner that the four workers who were either sick or on holiday when they were sacked are going to tribunal to contest their dismissals.
Earlier in the meeting councillors heard a report by a special scrutiny panel into Kirklees Council’s relationship with Unique Care.
The report found “a lack of robustness in awarding contracts without competition.”