Monday, 27 April 2009

University Challenge - Undermine Trade Unionism through Lies

Joint Statement from SOAS UNISON and SOAS UCU on the Dismissal of SOAS
UNISON Branch Chair, Joseph Stalin Bermudez

"Dear Colleagues

"As we predicted, the School's hand-picked Star Chamber has rejected
Stalin's  appeal against dismissal. Graham Furniss, Ian Brown and Matt
Craven, advised by Peter Mitchell the HR Director, would appear to
share the same perverted sense of justice as Sharon Page who sacked
Stalin in February.

"SOAS UNISON, UCU, and the Student Union, along with several voices on
Academic Board, had called for a genuinely independent panel to hear
the appeal. The School rejected that. Presumably they had no
confidence in an independent panel to produce the result they wanted.

"Stalin was absurdly accused by Sharon Page of a perceived "threat to
kill" a colleague in September 2008. In fact, the original complaint
contains no such allegation. The perception explicitly relates to
alleged "death  threats" in 2007. Those allegations had been found to
be "unfounded and unsubstantiated" in an earlier grievance hearing.
Never mind. The investigating managers and Sharon Page fell over
themselves to use those unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations to
support the complainant's perception. Sharon Page made her decision to
dismiss Stalin on her perception of the complainant's perception. An
more unsafe conclusion could not be imagined.

"There was, however, an eyewitness to the alleged incident, Pablo
Grisales, a cleaner working temporarily in the post room. One might
have expected the investigating managers to ask for a written witness
statement, but that is not what happened. Pablo was called into an
intimidating meeting with three managers present (Richard Poulson,
Sian Jones and an OCEAN manager) and was read out a prepared statement
which he was not shown and which he was asked to confirm. He was given
no opportunity to qualify that statement (indeed, he was prevented
from doing so) or to provide his own independent statement of events.
That unsigned "statement" then became the "witness statement". No
written report of that investigatory meeting was provided except for
the manager's file note.

"At the disciplinary hearing Pablo attended in person to provide his
own witness statement which supported Stalin's recollection of events
that there had been no threats. But this was dismissed by Sharon Page
as a fabrication and she chose to believe the non-existent "witness
statement" from the investigatory meeting. She decided to privilege
the "evidence" of the managers' claim that Pablo had verbally
confirmed their prepared statement over that of Pablo's. What else
could one expect at SOAS? Obviously a black cleaner is less reliable
than two white managers.

"Here's what Sharon Page actually said: "In my role as Chair I was
being asked to conclude whether two long serving and trusted managers
were telling the truth, or whether Pablo Grisales had changed his
recollection of events. On the balance of probabilities I concluded
that I believed the two managers. I was satisfied that the evidence by
(the complainant) and the SOAS managers was on balance far more
credible than that of Jose Bermudez and Pablo Grisales."

"What kind of reasoning is this? Pablo had not “changed his
recollection of events” because he was never given the opportunity to
give his recollection of events during the investigatory meeting. The
managers were clearly not witnesses to the events. And just why is the
complainant's view "far more credible" than Stalin's or Pablo's (the
only independent witness to the incident)? Prejudice can be the only
explanation. To say that this borders on downright racism would be an
understatement. Sharon Page made her decision to dismiss Stalin on her
perception of the complainant's perception. One white manager's
perception of a white complainant's perception of a black employee. No
contest in SOAS.

"The greatest lack of credibility in this whole affair is in the way
the incident was investigated and the how the decision to sack Stalin
was arrived at. Even more incredible is the conclusion of the
"payroll" appeal panel which could regard Sharon Page’s conclusions as
being in any way “reasonable”. Quite frankly, this stinks. The whole
SOAS disciplinary process has been brought into utter disrepute.

"We cannot allow this to pass. As promised, UNISON and UCU will make
available all the documentation and evidence relating to this case so
that our members can make up their own minds. UNISON are currently
balloting for industrial action and UCU will support them taking such
action. Meanwhile a genuinely independent panel of professors will be
established to examine the evidence and documentation and
reinvestigate this miscarriage of justice.

"Sadly, SOAS management seem to want to drag us back to the state of
industrial relations at the end of 2005. If this is the case then both
unions are ready to respond."

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

LEAP Conference 2009

LEAP conference 2009: Capitalism Isn't Working
LEAP Conference 2009 'Capitalism Isn't Working' takes place on Saturday 25th April, 10:30am-4:30pm at Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London. The conference comes just three days after the 2009 Budget Statement, and is an opportunity to discuss the economic situation, share information and build campaigns.

In between participative plenary sessions, there'll be four sub-plenaries:
Resisting the recession & Defending Jobs: the industrial agenda
Where's our bailout? Benefits, pensions, poverty & housing
What to do with the City and Global Finance: socialising the sector
Neoliberalism Isn't Working: fighting the ideological battle

Speakers and contributors include: John Christensen (Tax Justice Network), Bob Crow (RMT), Paul Feldman, Andrew Fisher, Professor Gregor Gall, Gerry Gold, Colin Hampton (UWC), John Hilary (War on Want), Jerry Jones, John McDonnell MP, Rosamund Stock, Graham Turner, Professor Richard Wilkinson, Matt Wrack (FBU).

Register online for the conference. We've frozen last year's conference prices: it's £10 waged and £5 unwaged, and you can also pay on the door. Debate online at:

Before this event, there is of course the 'Their Crisis Not Ours' Day of Action:

They've bailed out the bankers who started the crisis – but millions of working people across the country are paying with their jobs, pay packets and their homes.

On Wednesday 22nd April, you will finally have your chance to demand of the Government: 'Where's Our Bailout?'

As the Chancellor delivers the Government's annual Budget, come and protest in front of the world's cameras.

The Day of Action is being organised by Their Crisis Not Ours, a new grassroots campaign launched by the Labour Representation Committee which is chaired by John McDonnell MP.

The following actions will take place:

11.30am: Protest with placards listing our demands on Whitehall along the route the Chancellor will take from No. 11 Downing Street to address Parliament

5pm: Protest outside the Treasury near Whitehall on 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ.

7.30pm: Budget Question Time event in Committee Room 10, House of Commons with panellists including John McDonnell MP, economist Graham Turner and Clara Osagiede (RMT Cleaner’s Grade Secretary).

The campaign is backing the demands of the People’s Charter. On the day, we will call for a tax on the profits of big business and a crackdown on tax avoidance, an increase in pensions and unemployment benefit, an emergency council housing programme and an end to repossessions, a cap on energy prices, rail fares and rents, and free education for all.


P.S. Please join the Facebook group and event here:

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Postal votes and PPC selections

(Reposted from Labourhome)

There is a growing controversy surrounding the use of postal votes in PPC selections: is this a new way to manipulate selections to ensure 'favourable' results?
The current party rules are quite clear. Party members are entitled to a postal vote for PPC selections, but under quite specific circumstances:
(c)Postal votes shall only be granted to those who are unable to attend a hustings meeting - not to those who choose not to attend. Postal votes will be granted for those who cannot attend due to a medical condition, cannot make reasonable travel arrangements, are away on holiday, have work commitments or caring responsibilities or any other appropriate reason for non-attendance at the hustings as agreed by the NEC designate representative. They will not be made available to those choosing to undertake other engagements unless they are candidates for selection in this process.
(e) No shortlisted nominee or any person acting on behalf of a nominee should benefit from interference in the process of applications for, or the issue and return of, postal votes. Any evidence of such interference may lead to the disqualification of the nominee concerned.
Are these rules being kept to?
The controversy is particularly stirring in Erith and Thamesmead (read this article in the Tribune for details). A third of the CLP apparently had 'appropriate reasons' for requiring a postal vote. Now, in Calder Valley, 90 people voted by post (nearly double the 50-odd who attended the meeting) inevitably having a massive impact on the result.
Now there is a perfectly legitimate argument in favour of ensuring as many people can participate in this process as possible, but if people want to pursue the route of an OMOV postal ballot, then it has to be structured, it has to be fair and equal, and the party would have to pay for CVs and statements from all candidates to go to all members, etc. That is one option. There is an equally legitimate argument to say that this decision should be taken primarily by people who have engaged in the process, have heard all the candidates and had the opportunity to challenge them face-to-face. Either way, what is happening in Erith and Thamesmead, and what appears to have happened in Calder Valley, is something different entirely.
Is uncertainty about this rule being used by external influences to influence the results of selections? Are people working on behalf of some nominees (or perhaps more clearly, working very clearly against some nominees) in order to ensure the decision is taken at a distance, that the arguments aren't heard, that the candidates aren't challenged? If that is the case then this is a very serious issue indeed.