Exclusive: Graham fails to testify in Ogle discrimination case – subpoena to follow

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/04/2024 - 8:07am in

Failure to obey a tribunal summons is a prosecutable offence under Irish law

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has failed to respond to a court request to give evidence in Brendan Ogle’s discrimination case against the union she leads – and now faces a subpoena, or legal summons, to compel her to attend, for which she could be prosecuted if she fails to comply.

Skwawkbox has covered the discrimination case extensively – Ogle is also suing Unite, Graham and her sidekick Tony Woodhouse over defamatory comments made about him by Graham and Woodhouse in an apparent attempt to discredit Ogle and his discrimination case.

Despite attempts by Unite’s hugely expensive legal team, in an apparent demonstration of their eagerness to keep Graham from having to give sworn testimony, to argue that she was not relevant to the case because she is the UK general secretary and other witnesses would do instead, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator Elizabeth Spelman has responded to Graham’s failure to respond by inviting Ogle and his lawyers to apply for a binding subpoena to compel Graham to attend and give evidence under oath – which Ogle’s barrister Mary-Paula Guinness has already confirmed in an earlier hearing that she will do.

Ogle’s legal team has until 22 April to file its application and Unite’s lawyers have another week to respond and a hearing of the arguments will take place 7 May.

The Unite argument that she is not relevant falls apart under scrutiny, as she has featured heavily in others’ testimony during the case so far, including her allegedly telling Irish officials to inform Ogle that there was no place for him. Unite barrister Mark Harty has also said that Graham may not be ‘amenable’ to subpoena, as if a legal summons is a matter of whether one feels like being summoned.

Ogle is claiming that Unite discriminated against him by sidelining him on his return from cancer treatment – and that he was told that Graham ‘recognises loyalty’ from those who supported her in Unite’s 2021 general secretary election. Ogle, like many Irish figures and branches, supported Graham’s rival, Howard Beckett.

In last week’s sessions of the hearing, Irish Unite stalwart James ‘Junior’ Coss gave evidence corroborating Ogle’s account of sitting through the creation of a whiteboard chart about how the union would be organised after his removal, to the evident ire of the aggressive Harty, whose approach in the preceding session in February led to several ‘sidebars’ with Spelman and Ogle’s outraged barrister.

John Douglas, former general secretary of Irish retail union Mandate, also gave evidence in support of Ogle’s case, to a similar reaction from Harty.

Sharon Graham has previously cancelled appearances in the Republic, avoiding members’ anger and scrutiny over the union’s ‘disgraceful’ treatment of Brendan Ogle. The situation caused such outrage in Ireland that union members picketed Graham’s long-delayed visit to Dublin, Unite’s Community section condemned it as ‘disgusting’ and a whole sector branch threatened to disaffiliate. She did, however, briefly speak at Unite’s Irish policy conference this week, although she did not attend the union dinner with delegates.

Skwawkbox wrote to Unite to ask for comment on the issue:

Ms Graham failed to attend the Brendan Ogle hearing in Dublin by last Friday’s deadline, despite being asked to attend and testify. The Workplace Relations Commission has now invited Ogle and his lawyers to apply for a subpoena.

Please advise, no later than 5pm:

  1. Why didn’t she attend to give evidence?
  2. Does she and Unite intend to contest the subpoena request?
  3. If a subpoena is issued, non-compliance is a criminal offence under Irish law. Will she comply?

    At the time of writing, almost six hours after the reply deadline, Unite had not provided any response. Failure to obey a subpoena in employment cases is a prosecutable criminal offence under Ireland’s ‘Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018‘, with with penalties including prison sentences and large fines.

    Sharon Graham’s tenure as Unite boss has also been marked by a string of other allegations – which neither she nor the union has denied – including destruction of evidence against her husband in threat, misogyny and bullying complaints brought by union employees. She is also embroiled in a defamation lawsuit brought by Irish union legend Brendan Ogle for the union’s treatment of him and comments made about him by Graham and her close ally Tony Woodhouse.

    She has also been alleged by insiders to have:

    Her supporters also prevented debate and votes on Gaza at a meeting of the union’s elected executive last month.

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