'When the member becomes victimised by the body there to protect them'


Excerpts:

154. ...There is, however, a boundary that any union should be wary of crossing and that is when the member becomes victimised by the body that is there to protect them. As Mr Justice Supperstone held in the Kelly case,
It is necessary in a democratic society to protect the rights of members of unions to hold their unions to account for breaching the union’s own rules, where the members act in good faith.
The claimant was exercising her right as a union member when she requested disclosure of the Branch’s accounts. It was not necessary to name and to target her in the Branch’s emails and in other communications in the manner in which the Branch did.

162. We have found that the change to the Branch’s constitution, the timing of the amendment and the way in which it was expedited, were targeted at the claimant. The Branch officials and that the Branch were anxious to implement the proposed amendment prior to the claimant inspecting their documents on 7 April 2017. There was a determination on the 3 April 2017. The branch officials only disclosed the nature of the proposed amendment on the day of the meeting on 3 April 2017. Out of the 9,000 members only 41 attended the meeting. The claimant was named in the proposed draft letter to be sent to her with the threat of disciplinary and/or court action should she breach the provisions in the amendment which were in themselves quite restrictive as they do not allow for the claimant to discuss the documents with her legal advisors. Accordingly, she has suffered a detriment as she was targeted, isolated from the membership and restricted in her use of the information.  


75. It is difficult to understand why it was necessary to publicise the name of the claimant and the fact that she would be given copies of the BASSA Branch’s financial records. 

78. We were very concerned that a private communication between the Branch and the claimant was circulated [by the branch] to its 9,000 members. 




82. Mr Beatty told the tribunal that at the monthly Branch Committee meetings, the
Sean 'Contrary to' Beatty
composition of the emails sent to the members was a joint effort with everyone “chipping in bits and pieces” although he could not remember exactly who wrote what. He confirmed that the emails were all authorised by the Branch Committee. In our view the style and content of the emails suggests to the tribunal that they were written by one person. Also, they appeared throughout the month and not just for the first three days in the month when the Branch Committee would meet. Contrary to what Mr Beatty said the emails, in our view, went far beyond challenging the factual assertions made by those who they perceived to be working against the interests of the Branch. We find that the emails specifically targeted the claimant in ways which went beyond simply setting the record straight. 


125. We find that there is some credence in the claimant’s assertion that, considering the speed with which the proposed amendment took place, that it was directed at her to restrict her use of the information as she was due to meet with the BASSA representatives on 7 April 2017. There is also the proposed letter the committee members agreed on 6 April 2017 that they were going to send to her threatening her with disciplinary action or civil action should she fail to comply with the proposed amendment.

127. The BASSA Branch officers made no attempt to meet with the claimant to discuss her concerns and whether she had been involved in disclosing information about the Branch to the press and on social media. Instead what we have is an unhelpful dispute played out on social media in which she had clearly been singled out for unfavourable comment and criticism. 

148. In the 14 March 2017 email the claimant was again referred to by name notwithstanding the fact that the Branch representatives accepted that she may not have been involved in disclosing information to the press. Her motives in calling the Branch to account were also questioned. 

149. The emails were sent to the 9,000 membership and had the effect of isolating and blaming her for the lack of privacy protection afforded to trade union officers under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; for leaks to the press; for the weakening of the union, and for the weakening of the union movement. 

151. It is, in our view, clear from Mr Beatty’s evidence and from the above extracts that a determination was made on or around the 3 March 2017 by Branch’s union officials regarding how the claimant should be treated. This was in response to the negative press and rumours. Thereafter the documents referred to above are consistent with there being further determinations on how to deal with the claimant. These placed her at a disadvantage in that she was named when there was no need to do so and blamed for the alleged weakening of the unions. She was isolated and a target for attack for having to exercise her right to inspect the accounts under section 30. We are satisfied, having regard to section 65(5), that the claimant’s conduct was her requesting the disclosure of the Branch’s accounts. 

152. ..We are, however, satisfied that a determination was made on or around 3 March 2017 that she should suffer a detriment, in that the she would be identified and blamed for the consequences to the union and the union movement in having taken her case to the Certification Officer and the consequences for the union and officials considering the EAT judgment. The email of 3 March, the Twitter tweet and the subsequent emails referred to above specifically referred to the claimant by name rather than as a member of the Branch or of the union. We, therefore, have come to the conclusion that the claimant had been unjustifiably disciplined in respect of the email communications from the branch. Each communication sent to the membership followed a discussion by the union officers and amounted to a determination.

158. The tweet on “Court Cases and The Public Record” on 4 March 2017, gave the link to the document circulated to the members on 3 March 2017 which referred specifically to the claimant and those involved in the Castillo v Unite case. Again, we conclude that this was a determination made  by the Branch officers that the claimant’s case should be referred to in a tweet. This decision was a detriment to her as it further isolated her from her colleagues. We remind ourselves that the nature of the work of the BASSA involves travel all over the world and communication via social media is the principal means of keeping in touch and be seen as part of a team. We again would make the point that it was neither necessary nor acceptable for her to be identified by name and blamed for the alleged damage done to the union and the union movement. We have come to the conclusion that she was unjustifiably disciplined.

Election



I have no idea whether the polls are right.  Neither do they.  Consider for a moment what they are trying to tell us: a month ago it was massive Tory landslide and Labour oblivion.  

They are used in public discourse as if they are tools of prediction, but all their predictions from April are now reversed.  It's like predicting which team will win the league, and updating your prediction after every match.  

All it's showing is what those of us on the ground knew all along: 
1.  Theresa May is a cardboard cutout politician with no depth or gravitas, held up by hot air spewing from billionaire owned newspapers and establishment broadcasters.  

2.  All Labour leaders get vilified.  (Unless they actually get in bed with the Murdochs).  Brown and Miliband were both subject to character assassination.   Any of the bland weathercock 2015 candidates would have been (Cooper would have been portrayed as Mrs Balls, crashed the economy.  Burnham would have been Mr U-turn, privatised the NHS, Kendall would have been shouty little girl).  Angela Eagle or Owen Smith would have been mauled worse than Corbyn, given their dreadful media performances last summer.  We should *never* base our politics or leadership choice on appeasing tabloids.  

3.  People actually like Corbyn once they get to see him, rather than hear second hand smears from his political opponents (of both main parties).  His honesty and authenticity is an asset.  These are personal qualities; compare with Diane Abbot: similar politics but comes across as a question dodger.  

4. The most pernicious damage to Corbyn, which I hear every single time I go out door knocking, whether in heartlands or marginals, in Newcastle or around the region, is "but even his own side don't support him".  The damage wasn't done by the Tories, people expect Punch & Judy politics.  The damage was done by the dummy-spitting Mandleson crowd, Jess Philips, and Mirror and Guardian journalists.  

5.  The "hard left" "back to the '70s" policies of Corbyn and his supporters is neither of those things.  The poll shift has finally put to rest the lie that a strong social democratic platform is unpopular.  We released one and jumped ten points in the polls.  

6.  The size and strength of the Labour Party's grass roots does matter.  Our ground activity and social media is having an effect.  The Party establishment needs to nurture the members, not fear them.  

7.  If there is any kind of Tory government after the election we will certainly see a major economic slowdown in the next two years.  We are currently bumping along with the weakest of recoveries based entirely on consumer debt and property speculation.  Both are unsustainable and led to the 2007 crash.  Factor in a hard Brexit and we'll see a grinding recession within 2 years.  

A clear Tory majority (20+) will see them ditch May with her toxic Brexit legacy and hold out to 2022.   (She needs 50+ to hold on). 

A weak Tory majority will see increasing Brexit chaos and government defeats in Parliament, and the possibility of a vote of no confidence before 2022, with the probability increasing in direct proportion to their reduced majority.  

A Tory minority government will certainly collapse quickly, possibly even before the end of the Brexit process.  

Get your shoes on.  Get your phones out.  Every vote counts.
(author unknown)

Unite General Secretary Election



Vote for Ian Allinson

Ian Allinson, the only genuine candidate in the forthcoming Unite General Secretary election writes:

Voting for Unite General Secretary and the Executive Council opens on 27 March, in less than two weeks. Members have a chance to shake up our union and make it stronger. You can help ensure we seize that chance.

The need for a stronger and more effective union could not be more clear.  On 1 March the Tories brought in their repressive Trade Union Act. Theresa May is treating migrant workers like hostages for her trade negotiations with the EU. And from sector to sector we are facing threats to employment and downward pressure on pay and conditions.

Thankfully, members are fighting back. For example:
  • We had a magnificent march for our NHS on 4th March (video of my interview there).
  • BA Mixed Fleet cabin crew continue their struggle against poverty pay and have taken nearly thirty days of strike action. Donations to their strike fund, payable to Unite the Union (write "Mixed Fleet Hardship Fund" on the back) can be sent to Unite the Union, 33-37 Moreland Street, London, EC1V 8BB.
  • Members at Fujitsu where I work started national strike action on 28 February and our next strikes are on 17, 24 and 27 March. Mine is one of the 1800 UK jobs Fujitsu hopes to cut. Here's more information including where you can find pickets and how to support us.
This coming Saturday I'll be on the TUC-backed March Against Racism in London. I hope you will be there, or at the marches in Glasgow and Cardiff. I've posted recently about the importance of the demo, why  migrants' rights are workers' rights, and my disappointment that neither of the two establishment candidates in this election are willing to join me in speaking up for freedom of movement and equal treatment when members and their families are under attack.

As voting approaches we are seeing mischief ramping up. Coyne's campaign seems focussed on giving our union a bad name in the press, making it harder for all of us to build the union in our workplaces and communities. I've now had to complain that McCluskey's campaign has personally emailed members of branches which nominated me, falsely claiming that their branch nominated him. It would be useful to understand the scale of this abuse, so if you have examples, please share them with me.

I'm keeping my campaign focussed on the policies and measures needed to strengthen our union so that we can match up to the onslaught members face to our jobs, pay, services and rights. You can read my pledges below.

I've said from the outset that whatever the result of the election, my campaign is aiming to strengthen our union, raising important arguments and building networks of those who want a stronger and more effective union. As well as securing 97 valid nominations (many doubted we could reach 50!) we are already achieving these goals to some extent. The more people who get involved the more we can achieve. If you support the campaign, please register your details so I can get you involved. Please like, follow, share and retweet on Facebook and Twitter. On the Facebook page you will also find details of some local events supporters are setting up.

Turnout in union postal elections is usually low. Any campaigning helps engage members and increases the chances of them bothering to vote. If you want leaflets to distribute, please get in touch. If you are able to, please donate to the campaign too - I don't have the resources of senior union officers with rich and powerful backers Unlike some with dodgy backers, my campaign finances are transparent - all donations are receipted and any member can inspect the records.

There's lots more information on www.ian4unite.org.
Solidarity
Ian.


Ian's pledges

Communication, participation and a bottom-up union

  • Champion lay member democracy and participation, don't undermine it.
  • Fortnightly email bulletins direct to all activists, not filtered through officers and committees.
  • Support members being able to elect the officers who represent us. Not only would this increase accountability, it would reduce the power of patronage and the climate of fear in the union.
  • Tackle the non-functioning branches that deny members a voice and access to resources.
  • Oppose the exclusion of community and retired members from participation in Unite structures.
  • I'd keep my current wage, not the inflated General Secretary salary, to avoid giving the hostile media ammunition against us.
A stronger union, fit for the future
  • Involve members, officers and staff in a major review of Unite's structures to make them fit for purpose in the 21st century. Shift resources and power away from regions to better support the vast majority of Unite workplaces that are in employers spanning multiple regions. Improve support for company and sub-sector combine committees.
  • Encourage a spirit of experimentation in organising. Documents and publicise case studies of lessons from members’ organising and campaigning efforts and successes. We spend too much effort trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • A flexible facility for levies for strike funds etc, not restricted to where all members are in workplace branches.
  • Access to a Dispute Unit for all disputes from an early stage. All members in dispute should feel like they have a million members behind them, not be left to fend for themselves.
  • Expand the lay companion scheme to involve more members (including those not in paid work) and free up officer time from casework.
  • Overhaul education, which is essential for organising and changing the union's culture, in the light of funding cuts, and ensure fair treatment for our tutors.
  • Build on our organising success by increasing lay member involvement.
 Equality and young members' issues in our industrial agenda, not an optional extra
  • Champion workers' rights to move freely and be treated equally wherever we go. No concessions to racism or nationalism.
  • Integrate our equality and young members work better into our industrial agenda.
  • Tackle bullying and sexual harassment, including within our own union (also see report). Consultation over urgent implementation of the following measures: A review of all the union’s education and training for members and staff to raise the understanding of equality and diversity of everyone actively involved with the union; A review of the union’s women’s structures to ensure they provide a representative voice for Unite women, champion issues of particular concern to women, and provide a route to participation in Unite for members who face additional barriers due to sexism; Ending the requirement for Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer roles to be done as a part-job alongside an industrial allocation, so that equality issues have more focus and resource; Extending the recommendations of the Women Officers in Unite report to all women employed by union; A review of Unites grievance and complaints procedures to remove any bias against women who make complaints related to discrimination, bullying or harassment; Make equality and diversity a standing agenda item for all Unite’s constitutional committees.
 Campaign now: backing Corbyn shouldn't mean waiting for him
  • Extend Unite's support for Jeremy Corbyn, not only through Unite's role inside the Labour Party, but by grass roots campaigning and action which can win people over. Stop undermining him on key policies and calling his leadership into question.
 Fight for workers' rights, don't tail our employers' agendas
  • Organise regional conferences bringing together campaigns for civil liberties and against state repression, so that our opposition to anti-union legislation stops being isolated and ineffective.
  • Challenge the culture of partnership - we are not "all in it together". Post-Brexit Unite should be prioritising defence of workers' rights, not tailing employers' demands for free trade or protectionism.
  • Support a million climate jobs, not costly and destructive vanity projects like Trident, HS2, Heathrow expansion and Hinkley Point. Proactively fight for diversification to protect members whose jobs will be affected by changes such as climate change, changes in defence policy and automation. Call a conference of defence workers, the defence teams from Labour and the SNP, and experts on diversification.
  • Investigate the role of union officials in blacklisting members. Officially extend every assistance to the Blacklist Support Group in rooting out collusion and backdoor deals with the employers.

Unite Expensively Loses 'Inspection of Books' Case at Every Stage

The union strung out Karen Mill's inspection request as long as it could, with expensive lawyers, multiple Certification Officer hearings and finally an appeal against the Certification Officer's decision.

They lost at every stage.

The final case judgement is here:

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/uk/cases/UKEAT/2017/0148_16_0902.html

Robin Allen QC.  Up to £5,000 per hour


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