Exclusive: key Unite committee walks out, says will start legal action against union

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/05/2024 - 11:27pm in

Elected representatives walk out accusing Sharon Graham of stifling democracy and destroying the union, with Unite’s employed officers on the verge of industrial action against the union

Protesters holding a demo outside a meeting of Unite’s executive committee in March. Insert: general secretary Sharon Graham

In dramatic news that will further hit the management of the Unite union, which has been blighted by complaints of abuse, destruction of evidence and the betrayal of the oppressed people of Gaza despite the union’s democratic position in full support of them, members of a key Unite committee have today walked out and have said they are initiating legal action against the union over general secretary Sharon Graham’s ‘stifling’ of its democracy and what they say is her destruction of the union.

In a statement issued after the walk-out, the members of the ‘Finance and General Purpose Committee‘ of elected executive representatives, explained their action:

Today the members of the Unite Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GPC), the most important committee of the Unite Executive Council, took the unprecedented step of walking out of the meeting and will be commencing legal action with the Certification Officer.

As members of the F&GPC we have not taken this decision lightly, but we are determined not to let our union’s democracy be subverted by a Chair who has lost the confidence of the committee and a General Secretary who is determined to stifle democratic decision making.

The background to this decision is the refusal of the Chair and General Secretary to allow representatives of Unite’s Officers committee to address the meeting and explain why they are on the verge of balloting for industrial action.

At the previous meeting the members of the F&GPC were told by Unite Executive Head of Operations, Sarah Carpenter, that there was no unrest at all with the officers and no issues to be addressed.

But this flies totally in the face of the letter that all F&GPC members received this week in which the Officers National Committee asked to urgently meet and address the F&GPC, in order to discuss matters with a view to resolving major problems before moving towards industrial action.

Under rule, the ultimate employer of Unite officers and staff is the Unite Executive Council, and as members of the key subcommittee of the Executive Council, we take that responsibility very seriously. The idea that officers of Unite are so angry and frustrated as to want to take industrial action is totally unprecedented and is a situation that warrants immediate attention.

For the Chair and General Secretary to use every possible bureaucratic means to prevent that discussion is an insult to the F&GPC, an insult to the wider Executive Council, and most of all an insult to our members who need their officers motivated and working hard to protect their jobs, pay and conditions.

Our decision comes on the back of months of the F&GPC’s growing concern about poor management of the organisation and deep concern about financial reporting and accountability. We also thoroughly object to the General Secretary using threats against members of the wider EC when raising and challenging her handling of our money.

As members of the Unite F&GPC we will not stand idly by and allow the Chair and General Secretary to destroy our great union. We will be considering commencing legal action with the Certification Officer before any more damage is done and will be calling on the Unite EC and all Unite members and activists to help restore the democratic control and accountability of our union.

Graham’s tenure at Unite has also been marked by a string of other serious allegations, which neither she nor the union has ever denied – of abuse, cover-up and failure to protect women:

In addition, she has been exposed behind the union’s decision to ban showings in Unite’s buildings of a film exposing racism, smears, rigging and abuse by the Labour right and has appeared to grow increasingly cosy with red-Tory Labour ‘leader’ Keir Starmer, despite Starmer’s lies, his contempt for democracy, his u-turns on promises to Unite members and his regime’s repeated blocking of Unite-backed parliamentary candidates.

Unite has been contacted for comment.

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