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Sunday, 1 January 2012

The TUC Pays Out Libel Damages for False Accusation

TUC Accepts that Allegation of Acting as a Charitable Trustee Whilst Bankrupt was Without Foundation



In the mid-1980’s there were over 250 unemployed centres in Britain. Today a mere handful are left, probably less than 20%. I say probably, because no one, not least the TUC knows how many. So you can imagine how I felt when opening the TUC Handbook for 2011 to see that we weren’t even listed. This was only our 30th anniversary!

Even worse, the South-East Region of the TUC, which prints its own handbook, had decided not to list any unemployed centres. When I raised these matters with the Secretary of SERTUC Megan Dobney the matter was dismissed as being of no consequence.

Suffice to say heated words were exchanged. Next thing I knew a letter was sent to the Secretary of Brighton & Hove Trades Council Bill North containing an allegation that I was acting as trustees of a charity whilst a bankrupt. A criminal offence. Naturally I was appalled and the letter contained a threat to the Trades Council that if they didn’t reign us in then they too could find themselves being subject to unspecified disciplinary proceedings, which was a rerun of the 1930’s when the TUC threatened to derecognise the Trades Council if they continued to allow the affiliation of the local branch of the National Unemployed Workers Movement.

At that time the NUWM was controlled by members of the Communist Party. Today they are in the leadership of SERTUC! Plus ca change.

The TUC of course isn’t known for its advocacy of the struggle for workers’ rights and at the present time is engaged in trying to sell out the Pensions struggle. Having been a cofounder of the Unemployed Centre back in 1981 I wasn’t overjoyed that the TUC had given legs to a rumour without any foundation.

I therefore felt I had no alternative but to don my wig and gown and head off, Rumpole like, to the Royal Courts of Justice seeking justice. The TUC clearly doesn’t provide for anything in the way of an effective complaints system. After having launched proceedings for libel and defamation, I offered an out-of-court settlement for £3,000. Instead of grasping at the olive branch I had extended, the TUC preferred to instruct libel lawyers Russell, Jones & Walker who informed me that the TUC would be defending the case, not on the basis that the allegations were true but because it was covered by what is known as qualified privilege. However the letter sent to the TUC by Ms Dobney went on to make various perjorative comments concerning my good self, thus destroying the alleged privilege they were claiming.

Come November, when I had redrafted my Particulars of Claim, the TUC decided to accept my original offer, which included retraction of the original libellous letter and an apology for the distress and hurt which I had suffered.

In the past 30 years the TUC has not contributed one penny to the running of the Unemployed Centre. Indeed it bears a large responsibility for the collapse or divorce of the remaining centres. When we were formed back in 1981 they made recognition contingent upon accepting money with strings from the Manpower Services Commission. We were one of the few centres to refuse to accept their dictat. We were not a retraining centre but somewhere the unemployed could use to organise from. At the same time the TUC and its constituent affiliated unions must have spent untold millions subsidising New Labour’s attack on the rights of the working class and unemployed, so it is particularly gratifying to receive this unexpected boost to our funds. Not that this is the first time that Messrs, Sue, Grabbit & Runne have had to done their judicial garb as David Aaronovitch is more than aware!

Tony Greenstein

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