Monday, 18 June 2018

Unison’s Shameful Betrayal of its members – it supports the right to dismiss a worker for attending a demonstration

Why I face disciplinary action for criticising London Regional Organiser Steve Terry who scabbed on Stan Keable

Two weeks ago I was called to an investigation hearing. A complaint had been made against me regarding criticism I had made in various articles of UNISON’s London Region Organiser, Steve Terry, a right-wing Labour Councillor in Walthamstow.  The articles are below:

No criticism permitted

Stan Keable, an employee of Hammersmith and Fulham Council and also Secretary of Labour Against the Witch-hunt, attended a demonstration in London on March 26th called by Jewish Voice for Labour.  It was called in opposition to the Zionists’ ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration outside Parliament. It was part of the fake anti-Semitism campaign before the local elections, whose target was Jeremy Corbyn.
Unison sells itself more as an insurance company than a trade union
The Zionist demonstration was billed as an ‘anti-racist’ demonstration (the first one the Board of Deputies has called in its history) but an anti-racist demonstration at which Norman Tebbit and the Democratic Unionist Party are participants, to say nothing of Uncle Tom Chuku Ummuna and Sajid David is unlikely to be about fighting racism.
BBC 'journalist' David Grossman, with the ethics of a rattle snake
Stan got into a discussion with a Zionist in the course of which he expressed the view that the Zionist movement had collaborated with the Nazis.  The discussion was recorded by BBC Newsnight editor and all round bigot, David Grossman.  Placed on social media it caused the racist local Tory MP, Greg Hands to demand that Stan be sacked. Thus we see how the false anti-Semitism campaign is a threat to free speech and democratic rights, aided by yellow journalists such as the BBC’s Grossman.
H&F Council leader Steve Cowan promptly ensured that Stan was suspended and last month I represented Stan at his disciplinary hearing the result of which was that he was sacked.  I should not, of course, have had to represent Stan as I am from Brighton and Hove UNISON not Hammersmith but when Stan approached the London Regional Organiser, Steve Terry for support he received none.
Terry’s advice was that Stan should plead guilty and plead for forgiveness.  In a letter of May 8th Terry advised Stan that:
‘the course that you should take is to indicate that you regret any offence caused by your remarks and plead mitigating circumstances.’
A supporter of Progress, Terry was completely unfit to make a decision in this case. His own prejudices rendered him incapable of seeing that the main issue was not whether or not Stan was correct in his views but an elementary one of the right to free speech and free assembly, rights guaranteed under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The ECHR was drawn up and approved by the European countries precisely because of the lack of rights of civilians under Nazi occupation during the war. Terry however is a pen pushing bureaucrat, incapable of comprehending such issues.  For him, defence of Zionism was the only issue. 
Tony Jones - one of my two investigators
The two main charges against Stan were:
1. That, in attending a counter demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on the 26th March 2018, you knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about your views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy and the Council’s Code of Conduct (‘Working with integrity’ and ‘Working with the media’).
2. That you made inappropriate comments which were subsequently circulated on social media which are deemed to be insensitive and likely to be offensive and potentially in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and/or the Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.
In other words Stan should not have attended the demonstration in question because he rendered himself susceptible to being challenged about his view!  Could you have a more pathetic attack on the basic rights of any citizen?
Gail Adams, the second of my investigators, receiving a CBE from Prince William
To anyone with a modicum of understanding of human rights issues, let alone employment rights, these charges were a threat to all workers. Terry however was too dim to understand that.
The idea that by ‘causing offence’ Stan was guilty of a disciplinary offence is outrageous. Where lies freedom of speech? As Jodie Ginsberg wrote in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the murder of a Danish filmmaker by jihadists,
the right to free speech means nothing without the right to offend.  If all you have the right to do is to utter platitudes then free speech is meaningless.
Of course Terry was unconcerned by issues such as free speech. This overpaid and useless official considers that the members are accountable to him. It was therefore not surprising that Terry, who is not used to criticism from members, made a complaint via his superior, the London Regional Secretary against me.
The racist Zionist demonstration whose counterdemonstration Stan joined
On June 4th I was called to an investigation hearing conducted by 2 more officials, Gail Adams and Tony Jones from the southern region. Ms Adams is Head of Unison’s Professional Services Unit and Tony Jones is Regional Manager for the South-East and as Tony revealed during the course of the interview is himself a Labour councillor in Reading!  Most of the interview was conducted by Tony Jones, who was jovial and pleasant.  Gail Adams was mostly silent but her hostility was evidenced by her body language and general demeanour.  Clearly the idea of criticising a fellow official didn’t go down well.
You can read the whole interview here or you can listen to the tape of the interview here. Amongst the ‘highlights of the interview was my statement, in a letter to the Head of UNISON’s Executive Office, Beth Bickerstaffe, that the Inquiry could only be a ‘stitch-up.’ Tony Jones was offended by this description so I had to point out that this was not intended personally. Rather it was the fact that I was the person who was subject to a complaint rather than Terry, for his refusal to defend a member under attack and his incompetence in failing to have any grasp of basic employment or human rights, to  say nothing of his refusal to get a legal opinion.  On any objective basis Terry should be suspended on charges of gross misconduct as a prelude to his dismissal. But of course to Ms Bickerstaffe, daughter-in-law of former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe, it is me who is guilty of the ‘crime’ of criticising a full-time official.
What my case demonstrates is the democratic deficit in UNISON.  Despite supporting Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership elections in 2015 and 2016 (despite rumours that Dave Prentis would withdraw his support) UNISON is not a left-wing union. In the past 8 years, at a time of massive cuts in local government, it has abysmally failed to take any action against those attacks on members’ jobs and conditions or pay. When there was action a few years ago and strikes over pensions the union leadership did their best to get the action called off by pretending that they had secured concessions. Prentis is well-known for his lack of backbone.
Despite the fact that UNISON has good policy on Palestine and supports BDS (albeit doing very little to implement it) it has also supported the false ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign against supporters of Palestine.  I spoke on the motion in 2007 and again 2008 at national conference when policy on BDS was first proposed.  The arguments of the Zionists were basically that those supporting BDS were supporters of Hamas and anti-Semitic! Rodney Bickerstaffe, when he spoke at a PSC AGM attacked the use of false accusations of anti-Semitism against supporters of Palestine.  People are well aware of how Zionists weaponise ‘anti-Semitism’ but today they remain silent.
That is what the actions of Terry are about.  He is a fulsome supporter of the idea that support for the Palestinians is ‘anti-Semitic’ and in particular criticism of Zionism, the ideology of the movement that dispossessed the Palestinians. That is why Stan has been abandoned and that is why I am subject to a bogus ‘investigation’ that can only conclude that I am guilty as charged, even though charges have yet to be laid.
Tony Greenstein

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