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Exclusive: TSSA conference – delegates, members barred, no-conf motion blocked

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/06/2024 - 3:36am in

Around half of delegates barred, members prevented from online attendance and no-confidence motion tabled for vote blocked – but reps vote no confidence and ‘silenced’ staff say they will all ‘down tools’ if further staff are targeted

Members and workers were further outraged at the opening day of the TSSA’s annual delegate conference (ADC) in Cardiff yesterday, after around half of delegates due to attend the conference were blocked from admittance ahead of a tabled vote of no confidence in general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust – and the lay rep leafleting about the motion was directed to the union’s lawyers when he refused to hand over his leaflets.

The conference is usually attended by around eighty delegates, plus many of the union’s staff – and attended online by union members. However, Skwawkbox understands that around forty-four delegates, half or more, were refused entry because of supposed issues with their registration:

In addition, members were refused access to the online feed – along with some who gained access but were ejected. Delegates tried to force a vote anyway, but managed only around fifty percent in favour instead of the required two thirds.

TSSA staff have been the subject of smears sent by the union to member branches accusing them of being greedy and unreasonable, and have also faced attempts by Eslamdoust to bypass them and negotiate their dispute directly with the GMB union’s general secretary. The staff, who are represented at work by the GMB but it is the workers who are in dispute, not the other union, wrote last week to TSSA members to express their issues with their general secretary’s conduct:

URGENT LETTER FROM TSSA STAFF
PLEASE READ
CALLING ALL BRANCHES/MEMBERS OF TSSA

We write to address a matter of utmost concern regarding our General Secretary. We are writing to you as we have been silenced by the leadership of TSSA and have been banned from talking to TSSA members about the problems at TSSA. All TSSA staff have been told “internal staffing and organisational matters are confidential and should not be discussed with the lay membership.”

At the 2023 TSSA conference, staff were given the opportunity to address the conference in the light of the publication of the Kennedy and Conley reports. We have requested the President and the General Secretary allow staff to address this conference. We ask what the Leadership of TSSA is trying to hide if they prevent staff addressing conference this year?

TSSA staff are fully committed to the sweeping culture change called for in the Kennedy and Conley reports published in February 2023. Culture change is imperative if TSSA is to succeed and survive as an independent trade union. It needs to be highly prioritised work.

TSSA staff remain fully committed to this work.

Unfortunately, the General Secretary has shown no commitment to culture change at TSSA. There has been no progress in implementing the recommendations from both reports. In fact, culture change has regressed under this leadership. For example, there is still no Sexual Harassment policy at TSSA, even though this was a key recommendation from the Kennedy report 16 months ago. A new policy was agreed in October 2023, just before the General Secretary took office, but it has still not been ratified, over seven months later.

In addition, there have been multiple instances of bullying of staff/TU staff reps within the TSSA, with the General Secretary being the primary perpetrator. This behaviour not only undermines the principles of unity and solidarity that our union stands for, but also has a detrimental impact on the well-being of members and staff.

One of the most distressing consequences of this situation is the increasing number of staff members off sick due to stress and bullying. This not only negatively impacts the individuals concerned but significantly hampers the overall effectiveness of our union to deliver for members.

Furthermore, it is increasingly clear that the General Secretary lacks an understanding of the transport industry and its unique challenges. This lack of understanding has resulted in poor decision-making, wasting money (your membership fees), and a failure to effectively address the needs and concerns of our members.

The General Secretary has created an environment of fear and hypervigilance. She has taken unjustified actions such as suspending/demoting long-term staff and TSSA members without legitimate justification. This is leading to staff leaving the TSSA. In addition, three Executive Committee members feeling unheard, felt compelled to step down.

This has led to the staff at TSSA voting 93% in favour of strike action. You know that no workers vote for strike action unless they feel they have no alternative. Even more so staff working tor a trade union. This is how TSSA staff now feel.

As well as refusing to engage with staff representatives, the General Secretary tells lies in communications, claiming that she doesn’t know what the dispute is about, makes false claims that the staff reps won’t meet with her (there have been many meetings and correspondence regarding the dispute).

The General Secretary then made numerous false allegations in the Guardian newspaper, alleging a conspiracy that the GMB are trying to take over the TSSA.

It is insulting and demeaning to the staff that have been bullied by the General Secretary to claim that they are just making it up.

The General Secretary continues to make false allegations, including that the GMB want to take control of TSSA recruitment procedures and policies. These are lies to deflect from the very real and legitimate issues regarding her leadership that staff have. The TSSA General Secretary is blocking reforms demanded by the Kennedy report, not the GMB.

Furthermore, it is shocking to see your General Secretary crossing a picket line at Devonshire Square on the day of the staff strike on 30 April.

The current situation has left TSSA members and staff without a voice. Meaningful Collective Bargaining with TSSA staff no longer exists. The General Secretary frequently does not attend Collective Bargaining meetings, cancels meetings at the last minute, and is refusing to meet TSSA staff representatives at ACAS for further dispute resolution talks unless staff call off strikes. A well-known anti-union employer tactic.

A sincere employer accepting their unionised staff’s legitimate trade dispute would stop at nothing to genuinely engage to resolve the dispute. Instead, this employer uses anti-union tactics and misrepresentation on a level beyond the worst employers we deal with.

We genuinely fear that if Maryam Eslamdoust continues in her role, the union will be driven by a culture of bullying, power hoarding, epic incompetence, and a total disregard for trade union values.

In light of these grave concerns, we implore you to strongly consider voting no confidence in the current General Secretary at the 2024 TSSA conference. It is crucial that we take a united stand against bullying and ensure that our union is led by someone who genuinely understands and advocates for the welfare of TSSA members & staff; A General Secretary who shows a genuine commitment to sweeping culture change and the implementation of all the recommendations from the Kennedy and Conley reports.

We understand that this decision carries significant weight. Together, we can create an inclusive and supportive environment that upholds the trade union values we hold dear and protects the well-being of all our members and staff.

We sincerely hope that we can count on your support in voting for a motion of no confidence in this General Secretary.

In solidarity,
TSSA Staff (GMB Union Members)

(Emphases added by Skwawkbox)

Also last week, the Network Rail National Committee of TSSA reps at the rail employer – representing around a third of TSSA’s total membership – voted no confidence in Eslamdoust and union president Melissa Heywood:

Statement from TSSA Lay representatives on Network RaiI National Committee

Debated at National Committee meeting on Thursday 30th May

Emailed for continued debate, comment amendment on Thursday 30 May
Majority support confirmed from more than half of the 20 members by 31st May

TSSA had been through the massive challenge of removing the previous senior management team, including our General Secretary following an investigation and report by QC Helena Kennedy. There was a remarkable and positive consensus across the union to achieve these goals.

We have gone through the election process for a new General Secretary, with Maryam being successful in that election, being endorsed by the Executive Committee. At that point Maryam had the overwhelming support of our union employees and members, with the hope that we had every prospect of a positive leadership that would have learned from our previous conflicts.

Within weeks, internal conflicts started to emerge, with one member EC member leaving as he found the environment to be intolerable. The derecognition of Women in Focus was illegitimate and unnecessary.

Disputes between TSSA staff and the senior management team soon emerged, with complaints about non-compliance with agreements, accusations and counter accusations of bullying, with TSSA staff now having taken industrial action, referencing “a culture of bullying, harassment and victimisation”. There appears to be no plan to resolve this dispute which looks likely to escalate
unless there is a change to TSSA leadership approach to this dispute.

The communications from our GeneraI Secretary to the employees appear to have inflamed rather than attempted to resolve this conflict. The article in the Guardian, in which the dispute is claimed by Maryam to be a takeover attempt by the GMB, can have done nothing but harm to our union and the GMB, and appears to have no basis in reality.

Subsequently there was evidence that our President liked a social media post that called for the derecognition of the GMB, which represents our employees in TSSA. There now appears to an extension of this conflict with the Executive Committee apparently agreeing this week to the suspension of three TSSA members who have been critical of the leadership.

That this Committee has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

This Committee has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take further industrial action, we will support them in this action.

Note no full time officers have at any stage proposed or have at any stage been part of any of this debate or outcome.

Motion published by former TSSA assistant general secretary Steve Coe to his Facebook feed

TSSA at Network Rail London South had already voted no confidence in April. Staff voted unanimously last month that if any further staff are attacked or suspended by Eslamdoust or her allies, they will ‘down tools’ completely. An escalating programme of strikes is underway this month.

The conference continues today and tomorrow.

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Unite ‘tried to have journo report Ogle wanted punitive move to be near [dead] family’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/05/2024 - 7:50am in

Leading Irish trade unionist’s first case against union and general secretary Sharon Graham continues at Dublin’s Workplace Relations Commission

Unite tried to have an Irish journalist write a story that leading union figure Brendan Ogle wanted to move to Dundalk – more than an hour’s drive from his Dublin base and to a more stressful job – to be near his family when his family in Dundalk were all dead, according to unchallenged testimony given to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in Dublin today.

Ogle, well known in Ireland for his work on the Right2Water anti-privatisation campaign and others, has taken Unite to the WRC tribunal claiming the union discriminated against him after his return from treatment for aggressive cancer and was trying to sideline him or push him out. Ogle had supported general secretary Sharon Graham’s opponent Howard Beckett during the 2021 election for the position.

His wife, Mandy La Combre, was called to testify today after Unite’s expensive lawyers tried to use a Facebook post by her about Unite’s conduct towards him – described by Unite’s barrister as a ‘hand grenade’ – as justification for the union’s chilly attitude toward her husband. She told the Commission that Irish journalist Mick Clifford told her Unite had approached him to write an article saying Ogle wanted to move to Dundalk to be near family – but Clifford had, correctly, said to her ‘but his family in Dundalk are dead, aren’t they?’

‘Yes they are’, she told him and the tribunal.

Unite’s barrister quickly shut down the conversation, but La Combre’s account was not challenged.

The tribunal also heard, from retired senior official Jacky Pollock, that he had been told by former Unite general secretary Len McCluskey that Ogle needed to ‘watch his back and keep his head down’ because of the new general secretary. Again this was not challenged – Pollock was a witness called by Unite.

Pollock told the tribunal that Ogle was originally enthusiastic about taking the job in Dundalk and that the roles offered to Ogle were ‘very very important’. Pollock was shown emails from Ogle refusing the job and complaining that the work the job involved would have taken only a couple of days a month, along with an email from former retail union general secretary John Douglas – who has given evidence supporting Ogle’s case – saying that Ogle’s ‘position was being dismantled’, a claim he denied.

Unite has claimed in the case that Ogle’s change in role was required because of the union’s ‘change of direction’ under Sharon Graham. In her cross-examination, Ogle’s barrister Mary-Paula Guinness showed Pollock evidence of activities Ogle was undertaking as part of his job and asked which of them would no longer be needed under Graham’s ‘change of direction’, which appeared to be none of them.

And Unite’s witnesses so far have claimed that the move to Dundalk was to protect Ogle from stress that might cause a recurrence of the cancer. Pollock admitted that the job in Dundalk would have been far more stressful that Ogle’s existing role;

There would have been more stress. All the regional officer jobs are the hardest job in Unite.

Pollock appeared unable to provide a clear answer as to why, if Ogle was not being pressured to take the Dundalk job, Pollock raised it on four separate occasions after Ogle had made clear he was not interested in taking it.

In a brief testimony by video, former general secretary Len McCluskey told the tribunal no one had voted on Ogle’s job as ‘senior officer’ for Ireland. However, Skwawkbox understands that the appointment was voted on twice each by the Irish and UK executive groups.

The case continues tomorrow.

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.

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.

Skwawkbox is in Dublin again to cover the continuation of the Ogle vs Unite discrimination case. If you would like to contribute toward the cost of the trip, please use one of the options shown below.

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Graham shredded after flip-flopping on Starmer’s Labour in just 3 days

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/05/2024 - 3:59am in

On Wednesday, Labour was the change the country needed, now she’s attacking holes in workers’ ‘new deal’ she said was good only last week – cosying with Starmer exposed again

Sharon Graham has been derided on social media after a feeble flip-flop on Keir Starmer’s red-Tory politics – which she put out a video praising only last week and followed up by claiming Labour could be the ‘real change’ the UK needs.

Last week, Graham told LBC that she was ‘really really pleased’ with Starmer’s plan for working people – despite widespread reporting of his intention to water down the ‘new deal’ to please businesses and billionaires.

On Wednesday, when Tory PM Rishi Sunak called a general election, Graham tweeted – and was correctly lambasted for in hundreds of responses criticising her for spouting support for a party led by Keir Starmer, who has broken every campaign promise he made to get into the leadership and is indistinguishable from the blue version of the Tories apart from his rosette:

But this morning, perhaps attempting to regain some self-destroyed credibility, she claimed to have suddenly realised that the plan she had just been ‘really really pleased’ with had ‘more holes in it than Swiss cheese’ – yet still acted as if Starmer might somehow stop licking the backside of elites and fight for ordinary people:

The response was, predictably, almost uniformly blisteringly negative. A selection is shown below:

Graham has long been criticised for her cosiness with Keir Starmer, her willingness to accommodate his wishes despite his broken promises and his betrayal of workers – and the war she has waged, seemingly on his behalf, on those showing solidarity with those murdered, maimed or smeared by Israel.

Graham and her team have been accused of banning films combating racism and revealing the sabotage of the party and its members by Keir Starmer from the union’s buildings, along with a book exposing the Labour right’s collusion with the Israel lobby against supporters of Palestinian human rights.

One of her team allegedly threatened a soon-to-retire regional official with the loss of his pension bonus if he did not cool his support for the people of Palestine against Israel’s genocide, while Graham herself has been alleged by Unite insiders to have:

Her 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 both an employment tribunal for discrimination and 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 accused by Unite’s national officers’ group of showing contempt for the union staff’s collective agreements, taking an anti-trade union stance and attempting to use legal action to intimidate staff with grievances. Graham has suffered an unopposed vote of no confidence by at least one significant union branch over her conduct – and is spending a huge amount of members’ money on expensive lawyers to try to defeat Brendan Ogle’s legal actions against her and her allies.

And Unite’s key ‘Finance and General Purpose Committee’ of elected executive representatives walked out en masse last week in disgust at Graham’s behaviour toward union democracy and staff, saying they will initiate legal action through a complaint to the union Certification Officer.

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Libel case winner calls for suspension of sanctioned judge from community chair role

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/05/2024 - 8:49am in

Simon Myerson

The President of Leeds Jewish Representative Council, Judge Laurence Saffer, is facing calls to suspend and investigate its hard-line Zionist Chair, Simon Myerson KC for crude and abusive social media posts.

The call for Myerson’s suspension comes from James Wilson, who published his letter to the President of Leeds Jewish Representative Council on Twitter/X on this week. In April 2023 Myerson re-posted a tweet by Twitter/X user Tom Doran which accused Wilson of being ‘the scum of the earth’ and in some way responsible for the death of Pete Newbon, a director of anti-left pressure group ‘Labour against Antisemitism’ (LAAS).

James Wilson’s post containing his letter to Saffer

Wilson was the claimant in Wilson v Mendelsohn, Newbon and Cantor. He was recently awarded £30,000 in damages by a judge for defamation and misuse of private information. Newbon died by suicide in January 2022.

Doran’s tweet and Myerson’s re-tweet led to the High Court judge awarding Wilson increased damages. The judge said Doran’s tweet was crude abuse of the same dehumanising kind used against Jewish people by the Nazis in the 1930s. Despite the judge’s findings, it appears Myerson has not apologised to Wilson.

Myerson is also the part-time judge who was recently reprimanded by the Lord Chancellor and Lady Chief Justice for engaging in political in political controversy and posting offensive tweets. It is not known whether Mr Myerson KC continues to hold judicial office in light of his very public intervention in relation to a Green Party councillor. Skwawkbox has contacted the Judicial Press Office for comment.

Myerson recently called for the Green Party to suspend one of its elected councillors over his social media posts on the issue of Gaza. Myerson was also interviewed by LBC radio demanding the councillor’s immediate suspension. The hypocrisy of calling for another person to be suspended for their social media posts despite a judicial finding that he has engaged in crude abuse seems not to have been raised.

It is not known what, if any, action Leeds Jewish Representative Council will take about Myerson. The Council represents over 8,000 Jewish people who live in Leeds.

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Unite boss Graham ‘not amenable’ to Irish law, tribunal hears in Ogle discrimination case

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/05/2024 - 7:29am in

‘Extraordinary position’ taken by general secretary in bid to avoid testimony and cross-examination could result in prosecution

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham has taken the ‘extraordinary position’ that she is not ‘amenable’ to Irish law, lawyers acting for senior trade unionist Brendan Ogle have told a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) tribunal. Unite’s lawyers had first used the term during February’s session of Ogle’s discrimination case against Unite, when Ogle’s barrister Mary Paula Guinness BL raised the topic of WRC adjudicator, former UN prosecutor Elizabeth Spelman, issuing a subpoena to compel Graham’s appearance to give sworn evidence. Graham’s lawyers have subsequently confirmed her refusal to appear voluntarily.

Last Friday, the employment tribunal held a hearing, in Ogle’s Employment Equality Act 1998 complaint against Unite, of Ogle’s request for Graham, who is usually based in London, to be compelled to appear in Dublin for questioning under oath.

Ogle is claiming that Unite discriminated against him by sidelining him on his return from treatment for life-threatening cancer – and that he was told that the issue was 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.

Graham’s lawyers argued that there is no need for Graham to appear because Unite will send a subordinate, Ogle’s former colleague, Tom Fitzgerald, to refute Ogle’s claim.

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.

The tribunal had given Graham until 12 April for Ms Graham to respond to Ogle’s lawyers’ request to attend the next set of hearings at the end of this month, after which Spelman would hear legal argument the request for a formal summons. Graham did not respond. If a subpoena is eventually requested and issued, refusal to comply is a prosecutable criminal offence under Ireland’s ‘Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018‘.

Guinness, representing Ogle, told the tribunal that it is clear that Graham has “relevant information” in the case:

This is a general secretary who is general secretary over Unite in Ireland; it appears if we are to rely on the respondent’s submission that she has instructed her representatives that she is not amenable to Irish law.

She described the refusal as an “extraordinary” position, referring to Graham’s recent attendance at policy conferences in Dublin, Unite’s status as an active union in Ireland. and Ogle’s separate High Court defamation proceedings against Graham, her right-hand man Tony Woodhouse and the union, in which Graham is scheduled to appear, adding that:

She is general secretary of the whole union, including the union in Ireland. They have a head office here, her authority is exercised – it would be an unusual situation if she was to say she is not amenable to Irish law…

[Unite’s rulebook giving the general secretary sole power to change the responsibilities of union officers] all links in to the fact that in their submission they say this change arose after [Graham’s] election as general secretary.

Unite is the UK’s second-biggest union and one of only a handful of UK unions also active in the Republic of Ireland, with thousands of members in several sectors. Its lawyers claim that the WRC has no jurisdiction to compel Graham to attend.

However, if a summons is issued and Graham refuses to comply, she could face potential arrest if she returns to Ireland and a possible prison sentence and large fine under the Employment Act.

Adjudicator Spelman said she would communicate her decision on the summons in writing to both parties before the next set of hearings begins on 27 May.

In other news, Brendan Ogle announced this week that he will stand in as an independent candidate for Dublin in Ireland’s European Parliament elections in June.

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Victorious smear victim takes aim at ‘antisemitism’ lawyer who misled court

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/04/2024 - 11:15pm in

Zionist Mark Lewis panned by James Wilson in series of Twitter posts

Earlier this month, university lecturer James Wilson won substantial damages from two so-called ‘antisemitism campaigners’ who had foully smeared and endangered him and his family in their efforts to discredit him as an opponent of the ‘left antisemitism’ narrative that supporters of Israel have weaponised for almost a decade now against supporters of Palestinian human and political rights.

Now the victorious Wilson has taken aim in his social media feed at Zionist lawyer Mark Lewis, who at one time represented at least two of the defendants. Lewis, a pro-Israel activist who spoke about ‘unapologetic Zionism’ at the launch of a UK pro-Israel group considered by many to be far-right and boasted of wanting to make people whom he considered ‘antisemites’ homeless, has been lionised by the Zionist right for his pursuit of their opponents.

He has also been sanctioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for abusive conduct on social media – and wished a young Jewish supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour dead – and was heavily criticised by a judge in a different case for his conduct of the case and his lack of proper research on behalf of his clients:

a matter of very real concern that the Claimants put evidence before the Court, on an ex parte application, that was not true…

…he had simply failed to carry out sufficient (or any) research or to take adequate instructions from his clients.

And, as James Wilson has pointed out – alongside much more – Lewis was forced to apologise to the court for providing misleading information in Wilson’s suit about the financial health of one (by the time of the hearing, apparently former) client, Edward Cantor who, he had claimed, did not own property that could be sold to pay any penalty levied by the court:

As Luke Turner, who responded to Wilson’s posts, pointed out, Lewis’s distaste for ‘antisemites’ did not prevent him representing two extreme right-wingers – described by the judge in the case as bullying and ‘whiffing’ of antisemitism – when they wanted to sue Turner for posts about them:

And in a pair of posts showing screenshots of communications from Lewis, Wilson – himself a now non-practising solicitor – showed that Lewis demanded thousands of pounds, from the victim of the smear, to settle Lewis’s case against them, while expressing his and his clients’ expectation of victory in the case and repeating that Cantor owned nothing that could be used to pay any penalty. The tactic and the refusal to accept Wilson’s settlement proposal racked up enormous legal costs for the failed defendants:

And Wilson concluded his posts – for now at least – by taking aim at Simon Myerson, a supporter of Israel and part-time judge recently sanctioned for abusive comments on social media. Myerson had shared a post calling Wilson the ‘scum of the earth’, which the judge in Wilson’s case described as:

abuse of the same dehumanising kind as was used of Jewish people by the Nazis in the 1930s.

The judge also rejected the defence’s claim that Wilson’s correspondence with Myerson about his sharing of the abusive post demonstrated any kind of aggression or unreasonableness on Wilson’s part.

As Jewish author Michael Rosen, who was also targeted by some of the same people, pointed out, perhaps with his tongue firmly lodged in his cheek, it is noteworthy that the UK ‘mainstream’ press – which will run for weeks with any allegation against a left-winger or supporter of Palestinians – has shown no interest in covering the outcome of the Wilson case or the abusive conduct of those on the losing, pro-Israel, side:

However, Skwawkbox has covered the case in full and a timeline of it can be found here.

The case is not the first conducted by Lewis against supporters of Palestinian rights that ended poorly for his clients. In 2020 Jane Heybroek, a human rights barrister, won a stunning victory when actress Tracy-Ann Oberman and TV presenter Rachel Riley dropped their libel claim against her over an article retweeted by Heybroek criticising their behaviour and contributed toward her legal costs defending the action.

Mark Lewis was asked for comment about Wilson’s comments and analysis but had not responded at the time of writing. He was also ‘tagged’ by Wilson at the start of his Twitter analysis about Lewis’s involvement in the case:

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

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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    Exclusive: Graham to be subpoena’d to testify in Ogle tribunal if she declines to appear

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/04/2024 - 7:09am in

    Latest news from today’s session of discrimination case brought by Irish trade unionist against Unite and Sharon Graham as witnesses again ‘rattle’ union barrister – and former GS Len McCluskey will be called again

    Unite general secretary Sharon Graham will be legally summonsed to appear in Dublin at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) discrimination case brought by Irish trade unionist Brendan Ogle against Graham and Unite, if she does not accept an invitation from Ogle’s lawyers. The news was confirmed after an attempt by Unite’s highly-paid barrister Mark Harty, to claim that Graham was not relevant to the case because she is the UK general secretary, was rejected by Adjudicator Elizabeth Spelman after Ogle’s lawyers pointed out that Ireland is a Unite region and Graham has overall responsibility, as well as allegedly telling Irish officials to inform Ogle that there was no place for him.

    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.

    The question of whether a subpoena would be issued to compel Graham to attend was left open at the end of the last three-day session of the case. Harty tried to claim Graham was not relevant to the case and may not be ‘amenable’ to subpoena, as if a legal summons is a matter of whether one feels like being summoned. Graham and her alleged words about getting rid of Ogle have featured prominently in the case so far.

    In other news from the tribunal, 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 Harty, whom attendees described as becoming extremely aggressive.

    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 – whose approach in the preceding session in February led to several ‘sidebars’ with Spelman and Ogle’s outraged barrister Mary-Paula Guinness.

    Tomorrow’s session of the hearing was postponed after Unite’s lawyers called pro-Graham union employee Therese Maloney in an attempt to rebut former general secretary Len McCluskey’s testimony that he had assured Ogle his job would be kept open. Adjudicator Spelman ruled that McCluskey must be on hand for re-examination before Maloney can testify.

    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.

    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 earlier this month.

    Failure to obey a subpoena in employment cases is a prosecutable criminal offence under Ireland’s ‘Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018‘.

    If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

    No response from GMB to recording of Smith ‘threatening’ sexual harassment victim

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/03/2024 - 10:54am in

    Union fails to confirm, deny or even acknowledge scathing #MeTU accusations from abuse victim

    The GMB trade union has failed to respond to an urgent press enquiry from Skwawkbox about the serious accusations made against it by a woman employee of sexual harassment and rape by one of its senior officials – and of threats made by GMB boss Gary Smith if she did not withdraw the complaint and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

    While most of the victim’s allegations of what Smith said are related verbally, on one occasion she recorded Smith appearing to acknowledge that she had been abused, but warning her that if she ‘put a gun on the table’ she would be fired back at and that as a ‘big organisation’ ‘we’ would always have more money and better lawyers for a legal battle – and that there’d be no room for tears if things went badly, so ‘don’t get into that game’:

    A secret recording of what appears to be GMB boss Gary Smith

    The complainant also says that Smith:

    • told a friend to tell her that if she didn’t sign an NDA by the end of the day he’d ‘open a process on her’
    • told her that the secret services were watching her
    • told her the union was busy fighting the Tories and that she put the ‘whole trade union movement’ at risk if she pursued her complaint
    • made her attend meetings, away from the union’s office, in the basement of a local hotel with no HR people present
    • told her that GMB is ‘under no obligation to investigate any complaint of sexual harassment simply because it is the employer of the alleged perpetrator or because the GMB’s equipment had been used’
    • told her she had ‘driven a wrecking ball’ through the union by launching an employment tribunal case and that ‘all the women on the senior management team wanted me sacked’
    • refused to investigate complaints
    • refused to help assure her safety at the union’s conference

    and more.

    In 2020, two years before the victim’s case, barrister Karon Monaghan’s investigation found that:

    Bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB.

    The culture in the GMB is one of heavy drinking and late night socialising,
    salacious gossip and a lack of professionalism…

    Sexual harassment is common in the GMB.

    The union promised to implement Monaghan’s recommendations in full.

    Skwawkbox wrote to the GMB, with the link of the alleged victim’s video and a request for urgent comment by 5pm this evening. At the time of writing, more than six hours later, Skwawkbox has still received no response.

    At about the same time as the allegations in GMB were unfolding, the TSSA union was rocked by a massive sexual harassment scandal that led to the removal of its general secretary Manuel Cortes and a number of his senior team. The TSSA was accused in January and last month of failing to implement the recommendations of the Kennedy report and its new general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust – pushed by the TSSA executive despite having no relevant union experience – of presiding over a culture of fear, intimidation and bullying.

    Watch the victim’s full statement about her alleged experiences here.

    If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

    Exclusive: Graham’s Unite ‘spending €150,000 A DAY’ on lawyers in Ogle abuse case

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/03/2024 - 12:05am in

    1.35 million euros flushed on legal team over 9-day case according to union sources – and that’s just the tribunal, with the defamation suit to follow

    Image: S Walker

    Sources within the union say that Sharon Graham’s Unite is spending spending €150,000 a day just on the fees of its legal team to defend the discrimination tribunal case brought against Unite by leading Irish trade unionist Brendan Ogle – a staggering €1,350,000 across the planned nine days of the Workplace Relations Commission hearing in Dublin, not including court and other costs.

    Ogle brought his complaint against his union employers after he was sidelined, following his successful battle against neck cancer, to an office fifty miles away from his Dublin home, despite a promise from Ms Graham’s predecessor Len McCluskey that his job would be kept open for him pending the outcome of his treatment. Cancer qualifies as a protected characteristic under equality legislation in both Ireland and the UK.

    Ogle told the tribunal last week that another senior Unite employee in Ireland called him to a meeting after his return to work and told Ogle that:

    he’d been told by Sharon Graham to draw up a strategic plan for the Republic of Ireland and I was not to be in it.

    The case could, presumably, easily have been settled for no more, and probably considerably less, than €1.35m – but Unite has deployed no fewer than seven lawyers to defend it:

    1 Senior barrister
    1 Junior barrister
    1 Legal Director
    3 Solicitors
    2 Legal Execs

    Ogle, in contrast, has a junior barrister and a solicitor.

    As well as the employment tribunal case, Brendan Ogle is also suing Graham, her ally Tony Woodhouse and Unite for defamation over comments made about him to union members at different events. Unite is employing the same legal firm – one of the world’s most expensive and profitable – in the defamation case, probably at similar or even greater cost.

    One union source told Skwawkbox:

    That’s the entire annual subs at full rate of 5,769 members. Sharon hasn’t published an Annual Report since she became general secretary. That’s unheard of – and for someone who has spent so much time accusing others of malpractice, it’s extraordinary.

    The union’s ‘disgusting’ abuse toward Ogle on his return from cancer treatment triggered widespread outrage among grassroots members, politicians and community groups – anger so serious that an entire sector branch threatened to disaffiliate entirely from Unite, the well-known ‘Right2Water’ campaign said it will no longer work with Unite, Unite’s Community section in Ireland condemned the ‘injustice inflicted’ on him and members picketed general secretary Sharon Graham’s long-delayed visit to Dublin last month.

    Sharon 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 did not respond to a request for comment.

    Update: more than two hours after the response deadline – and an hour after publication of this article – Unite responded with a generic denial:

    “This story – like the other stories that The Skwawkbox has published as part of its smear campaign – is untrue.”

    The statement, which did not specify whether the amount spent is higher or lower or by how much, went on to smear this site, implying the scrutiny of Ms Graham’s spending and activity was linked to a Birmingham hotel and conference centre project and Ms Graham’s ‘findings’ about it.

    Ms Graham was part of the group of senior Unite figures that approved the Birmingham project. Her close ally Tony Seaman was the ‘project-specific convenor’ on the project, a role that appears to have been created especially to accommodate him. Unite, with Graham as general secretary, subsequently whitewashed racism findings against Mr Seaman, despite agreeing that he had made racist comments.

    If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

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