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."

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