Tony Greenstein | 31 October 2021 | Post Views:

Stan Keable’s Victory is Not Enough – UNISON Must Answer for Why They Supported the Employer and not its Member

Steve Terry, UNISON’s Scab Official, Must Be Dismissed 4 Refusing to Support a Worker’s Right to Free Speech 

On 26 March 2018 the Board of Deputies held a demonstration outside Parliament to protest about Labour ‘anti-Semitism’. Jewish Voice for Labour organised a counter demonstration.

Stan Keable was one of those who protested against the Zionist ‘anti-racist’ demonstration. A demonstration which included those well known anti-racists Norman Tebbit, Ian Paisley and Sajid David.

The Evening Standard article that set the ball rolling

In its 260 year history the Board has never held an anti-racist demonstration. Not against Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists, not against the National Front or any other fascist or anti-Semitic group. In October 1936 the Board told Jewish people not to demonstrate against the fascists.

In the course of a conversation Stan mentioned the fact that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis. Stan also said that anti-Semitism was not the sole cause of the holocaust. This too is true. There have been many anti-Semitic regimes but only one led to mass genocide.

BBC 2 Newsnight ‘journalist’ David Grossman was covertly filming the exchange and he uploaded it to Twitter where it was seen by Greg Hands MP who retweeted it to the leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Stephen Cowan.

Steve Cowan – Hammermith & Fulham’s right-wing leader

On 27 March Cowan sent an email to Council officials including Mark Grimley, the Council’s Director of Corporate Services “LBFH employee Stan Keeble making anti-Semitic comments.” Cowan stated that:

“I’ll let Mr Keeble’s words speak for themselves. I believe he has brought the good name of LBFH into disrepute and committed gross misconduct. Please have this looked at immediately and act accordingly and with expediency… Please advise me at your earliest opportunity what action you have taken.”

Stan was immediately suspended and the suspension letter informed him that:

“ .. The following serious allegation(s) which, if substantiated could constitute gross misconduct … (1) that you made inappropriate comments which have subsequently been circulated on social media which are deemed to be insensitive and likely to be considered offensive …; (2) that these comments have the potential to bring the council into disrepute.”

An ‘investigation’ was carried out by Peter Smith, Hammersmith’s Head of Policy and Strategy. The bias of the Report can be judged by the following:

Zionism is not a religion, although it is closely related to Judaism, but it is a belief in the right of the Jewish people to have a nation state in the ‘Holy Land’, their original homeland.

Apparently the ‘Holy Land’ is my original homeland, itself an example of anti-Semitism! Smith held that Stan’s comments, 

‘that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis and that Zionists accept that Jews are not acceptable here, do not promote inclusion nor treat everyone with dignity and respect.’ 

In other words you can’t say anything which might possibly offend anyone. Hammersmith’s ‘Equality’ policies were used to attack freedom of speech. To Smith freedom of speech was meaningless.

As Orwell observed,

‘‘If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. Smith concluded:

It is my belief that in attending the counter demonstration at Westminster on 26th March and in making the comments that subsequently appeared on social media, Mr Keable has failed to avoid any conduct outside of work which may discredit himself and the Council.’

Smith went on to say that

That, in attending a counter demonstration… on the 26th March 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his 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.’

Not only had Smith driven a coach and horses through Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights on free speech, but he had abolished Article 11 on freedom of assembly and association. Not bad for an Equalities policy!

The Disciplinary Hearing was chaired by the Director of the Council’s Residents Service, Mr Austin. There was never a chance that Austin was going to contradict the express wishes of the Leader of the Council and Stan was duly fired.

I represented Stan at the hearing being an accredited Brighton & Hove UNISON steward. Of course this was unsatisfactory. Stan should have been represented by a UNISON official. That’s what they are paid to do. Stan was a member of UNISON and was entitled to representation.

Steve Terry – full-time UNISON official – in any other job he would have been given his cards since he is clearly incompetent

However the London Regional Official, Stephen Terry was also a right-wing member of Progress as well as Chief Whip on Waltham Forest District Council.

When I rang Terry he made it clear that he did not understand the concept of freedom of speech when it contradicted his own views. His recommendation was that Stan should apologise and plead guilty. When I pointed out that he had done nothing wrong, Terry became confused and garbled.

Terry made it crystal clear that he would give Stan no support. He would attend the disciplinary but say nothing, thus making it clear that UNISON didn’t support him! Needless to say his kind offer wasn’t accepted since it would have made Stan’s position worse.

On 8 May 2018 Terry wrote to Stan outlining his position:

The course that you should take is to indicate that you regret any offence caused by your remarks and plead mitigating circumstances, relying on your unblemished record in relation to conduct to receive a sanction short of dismissal. … You have decided both not to follow my advice and to appoint another representative…. UNISON regrettably is no longer able to provide you with advice and/or assistance in this matter.

Thus this scab official washed his hands of Stan’s case. Terry was supporting the employer’s attack on a worker’s right to freedom of speech. On 23 May Stan made a complaint to UNISON:

At my case meeting with Steve Terry on April 27th, he made it clear that he did not support my case: that I should plead guilty as charged; that I should not have attended the March 26 demonstration; that I should apologise for the political views I expressed; and that I should promise not to attend controversial demonstrations and should avoid expressing my political views in future.

He also gave me an ultimatum if I did not follow his bad advice: either Unison support would be withdrawn forthwith, or he was willing to attend my disciplinary hearing as a silent Unison rep while I presented my own case – which obviously would have shown the employer that Unison did not support my case.

On 29 May Beth Bickerstaffe, Director of the Executive Office, wrote back. Beth who? Yes that’s right. Beth is the daughter-in-law of former General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe! UNISON at heart is a family affair and they like to keep the best paid jobs in the family.

Of course there was little point in Stan writing to one official to complain about another official since the whole point of the Complaints system is to enable officials to complain about members, not the other way around. Beth did what comes naturally to her and rejected Stan’s complaint, writing:

You were provided with advice and offered representation by UNISON but you did not agree with the advice, decided not to accept it and appointed a different representative to Mr Terry. This is a choice that you are free to make. However, the union’s rules are clear that in those circumstances it will withdraw from acting for you.

Given that you decided both to take a different route from the one advised and appointed an external representative the union has made it clear to you that it is unable to act for you and it will not therefore be seeking legal advice about your dismissal.

Beth explained that ‘normally’ UNISON does not use solicitors in disciplinary matters because ‘Regional Organisers use their knowledge and experience’ to advise members. As can be seen from the decision of both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Terry’s advice was wrong.

Picket Outside UNISON against naked union electoral corruption

This miserable bureaucrat didn’t bother to consider that Terry’s advice was wrong. After all UNISON’s primary purpose in her eyes was to provide a safe and secure environment for its officials. Questioning their judgement does not come within her remit. The idea of a second opinion, as Stan requested was simply ignored.

I have some experience of Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal having spent well over a decade defending workers in them. I appeared 5 times before the EAT and was successful in all 5, see for example Lucas v Chichester Diocesan Housing Association, an early whistleblowing case.

Any union adviser worth their salt would have realised at once that when issues arise concerning the interplay of the Human Rights Act with Employment Law then full-time officials will be out of their depth. Discrimination law can be extremely complex which is one reason why success in discrimination cases is less than half that in unfair dismissal cases.

When Stan was dismissed he appealed against the decision. London regional UNISON then set about ensuring that I was not able to represent Stan at the appeal hearing as is evident from para. 82 of the Employment Tribunal decision.

UNISON officials were determined not to give Stan Keable any support whatsoever. Now that the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled in Stan’s favour (see here for the full judgment) it is to be hoped that finally UNISON admits their culpability and makes amends.

The Zionist Demonstration in Favour of Racism

UNISON has a left-wing Executive for the first time so one hopes that they make amends by paying Stan’s lawyers. Although they acted pro bono there was no reason why they should have had to. UNISON should agree, as a rich union, to make an ex gratia payment to both Iqbal Sram, the lawyer at the Employment Tribunal and Dave Renton, the barrister at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.But the matter does not rest there. I reported extensively on the case and on UNISON’s abysmal failures. See here, here, here, here and here. Now there is no greater crime in UNISON’s rule book than criticism of an official by a member. It is a hanging offence. The union is there to protect its officials and their perks from its members, not the other way around as some misguided people believe.

The useless official who conducted the investigation

So, quite understandably in the circumstances, an investigation was launched into my conduct conducted by UNISON’s South-East official Tony Jones, also a right-wing councillor and Gail Adams. The only time I had seen Jones in over 20 years was when he came to a branch meeting to defend calling off industrial action. It had become too successful and Prentis, UNISON’s corrupt General Secretary, wanted out.

You can read the whole investigation interview here or you can listen to the tape of the interview here.

Mark Fischer

Unsurprisingly the investigation did not go in my favour and a disciplinary hearing was conducted by Mark Fischer, a member of UNISON’s Executive and a Prentis loyalist. Fischer’s only concern was protecting Terry. The fact that a worker had been stabbed in the back was of no consequence. This is the mindset of UNISON’s officials.

Fischer took care not to have the hearing recorded and insisted on my phone and that of my silent witness, Bill North, being handed in. However I had anticipated such a move and I had taken care to conceal another recorder on my person which you can listen to here!

Difficult as it is to believe, Ferncombe is as thick as she looks! However that is NOT a disadvantage amongst UNISON officials. Indeed some might say it is a positive advantage

What made the hearing unfair was that the complaint against me was made by Maggie Ferncombe, London Regional Secretary. This presented me with a problem since the person who I had allegedly intimidated and reduced to a gibbering wreck, Steve Terry, was not available for cross-examination. I had apparently humiliated him but he was not giving evidence. Anyone who was fair minded would have dismissed the case but Fischer was a rubber stamp not an impartial arbiter. The relevant part of the cross-examination is below, although you can look at the full transcript here or here:

Imagine that in a court of law, you are accused of harassing someone but it’s not that person who gives evidence but someone who talked to him. This is UNISON’s idea of justice. The relevant part of my cross-examination was as follows:

TG: [54:00] You made the complaint about me?

MF: I did

TG: … and yet the obvious thing would have been for him to have made the complaint. Would it not?

MF: I can’t speak for Steve.

TG: But you spoke to him.

MF: I can’t speak for Steve whether it’s obvious or not for him to make a complaint. What I can say is that Steve raised it with me because of the subject matter. He believed that it was an issue that I needed to be aware of… because we must be prepared to have a response. He raised it with me and I then read your blog and once I had read your blog that is when I decided I would make a complaint.

TG: Can you enlighten us as to why he did not make a complaint?

MF: I don’t know.

TG: You spoke to him but you have no idea why, you did not ask him?

MF: No.

TG: You weren’t interested?

MF: No.

TG: You did not invite him to make a complaint?

MF: No

TG: You did not think it was necessary for him to make a complaint?

MF: I think that was down to the member of staff (TG: clearly) I took my responsibilities as a senior manager of the region to determine that I didn’t think this was appropriate, I thought it was outside of our norms fact

TG: I realise that

MF: and I took the decision to make the complaint. And in fact I informed Steve that I had made the complaint.

TG: But Steve had the right to make the complaint if he was aggrieved. Did he not?

MF: All members of staff have the right to make a complaint.

TG: So you have no idea, on the basis of your relationship with him, why he chose not to make a complaint?

MF: (after some considerable delay) I can only say that it is highly highly unusual in my experience for a member of staff to make a complaint about a member.

TG: Well maybe this case is maybe highly unusual so it wouldn’t be exceptional?

MF: I can’t speak for Steve.

TG: What was the nature of your conversation with ST?

MF: I just explained that he said that there was an issue that was happening in that particular branch, regarding a member and that he was going to be advising and that he thought that I needed to be aware of it on the basis that it might attract interest from the press and therefore we might be contacted …

TG: The charges against me today are … that I was disrespectful, intimidating, I exposed him to ridicule, embarrassment and contempt and it violated his dignity. If we go through those. Did he say that I disrespected him?

MF: I did not have a great deal of conversation regarding how Steve felt regarding the blog at all.

TG: So you weren’t curious as to how he felt?

MF: Steve didn’t offer how he felt when I had a conversation with him. Steve offered that there was an issue I needed to be aware of in one of our branches that I would need to be prepared for should the media decide to

TG: Sorry he didn’t come to you and say ‘I’m feeling intimidated as a result of the behaviour of Mr Greenstein?’

MF: No.

TG: Did he say that he felt ridiculed or embarrassed or felt that I held him in contempt?

MF: No.

TG: Did he say that I had violated his dignity?

MF: No.

TG: So would you agree that these charges are entirely speculative? That they have no basis or foundation and are not the subject of an allegation.

MF: No, I don’t agree with that.

TG: But nonetheless he did not make any complaint as to this nature did he?

MF: No but the charges talk about conduct which may and I believe your conduct

TG: So it may have exposed him but there is no evidence to suggest that it did expose him

MF: Well I haven’t really done an investigation into what…

Mark Fischer, was not happy with my cross-examination. His favourite phrase was ‘Let’s stick to the facts.’ On one occasion I responded that ‘WellI’m giving you the facts. You may not like them but I can’t give you any others!’

The recommendation was that I be suspended for 3 years with a loss of membership rights. Short of expulsion this was the maximum penalty. The Jewish Chronicle naturally crowed about the decision.

Racist, corrupt, machievellian and not very bright – what is there not to like about John Stolliday?

On 4 December I received a letter from John Stolliday, Head of UNISON’s Members Liaison Unit, informing me of the date of the hearing, 16 December 2019. I rubbed my eyes and wondered if I had mixed up my correspondence. In March 2016 I had received another letter of suspension from Stolliday suspending me from the Labour Party!

This racist, corrupt bureaucrat (see here) who was quoted as saying that ‘Letting members have a say is the worst thing that happened to the Labour Party’. (p.112) and referring to Ed Miliband by his nose (‘beaker’) had been hired by Prentis.Clearly his attitude to UNISON members is no different to his attitude to Labour Party members.

One thing is certain – Dave Prentis owed a lot to Linda Perks. When she retired, Prentis wasn’t far behind

Mark Fischer pretended that my case was all about my having broken the rules. Yet Linda Perks above, flagrantly broke union election regulations on behalf of UNISON’s corrupt General Secretary Dave Prentis. Her reward? She was promoted!!!

Because the appeal hearing was not heard until over a year later I applied for an injunction from the High Court to prevent the hearing but this was unsuccessful. However I refused to pay the £4,000 costs which were awarded against me!

For UNISON’s full-time officials corruption is a way of life. Those who are honest tend not to last too long

At the Appeal hearing I applied to have an email of 18 May 2018 from Beth Bickerstaffe admitted. I had made a complaint against Terry in respect of his treatment of Stan Keable but Bickerstaffe had refused to accept my complaint because only the member himself could complain. My application to admit her email was refused. In her email Bickerstaffe had written that:

‘In your letter you seek to make a complaint against Steve Terry in relation to his handling of another member’s case. Should that member want to raise a complaint he may do so under our published procedures.

In other words I was not allowed to make a complaint about another member but Maggie Ferncombe was allowed to make a complaint on behalf of Terry. It was one rule for an official and another for a member. It was clear that the hearing was going to be a formality and I walked out since it would have been a waste of my time.

Although he purported to support Corbyn, Prentis was in league with the Jewish Labour Movement’s Adam Langleben

On 17 December I received a letter informing me that the decision to suspend me for 3 years had been upheld. I promptly resigned and joined UNITE. It was with regret that I was no longer a member of the Brighton and Hove UNISON branch but I had no choice.

Now that the Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal that Stan Keable was unfairly dismissed it is time for UNISON to revisit the refusal of Stephen Terry to support the right of a member to exercise free speech.

The continuation in employment of a scab official, Stephen Terry, is a disgrace and a stain on UNISON. It is one that needs to be speedily remedied.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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