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Trade union colleague has a mental-health condition? DON’T PANIC! Some useful guidelines on how to cope.

As a trade unionist it’s become increasingly apparent to me that there is a need for guidance for trade unionists, and for members of the wider Left generally, on how to cope when they have a colleague who has a mental-health condition.

I was until recently Vice Chair of the University and College Union in Wales, but was then deemed unfit to hold elected office in the Union by my Wales Council colleagues on grounds of having a mental health condition. This followed my union colluding with another trade union, PCS, in setting the police on me for campaigning against the Welfare reforms.

Mental health conditions are very common – one in four of UCU’s members has a mental health condition. If a union’s leadership is to be representative of its membership, then people with mental health conditions should be able to participate fully in the union’s activities and democratic processes, including holding elected office.

It proved extraordinarily difficult to determine UCU’s degree of complicity in PCS setting the police on me – or indeed to obtain any information whatsoever about the matter, nor to get anyone to talk to me, as the union’s leadership appears to operate a strict no-engagement policy with its officers with mental-health conditions (fair enough, mental health is highly contagious).

So I had to resort to making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act (DPA SAR) for the correspondence between UCU and PCS, and between my colleagues, concerning myself, to try figure out what on earth was going on.

So I eventually received from UCU’s legal department, more than 5 months after the police had come to my door at midnight to interrogate me about my “criminal intentions” toward PCS members, a pile of redacted emails in which my colleagues display an attitude toward people with mental health conditions of quite extraordinary ignorance and prejudice.

No-one in PCS has contacted me to tell me why they set the police on me. But a member of the UCU delegation to the TUC Women’s Conference in March (of which I was also a member) was told by a Wales member of the PCS delegation, by way of explanation, that PCS had set the police on me for campaigning against the Welfare Reforms killing 73 disabled people a week because “They’ve never experienced activism from someone with a mental health condition before. They just panicked.”

I thought it would be useful therefore, for both UCU and PCS, and the wider trade union movement, if I used the material from the DPA SAR in what I hope is a constructive way to try to address some of the ignorance and misconceptions that officers and officials in both unions have toward their colleagues with mental health conditions.

the charges

The above email is from a senior colleague in UCU Wales with whom I serve on national committees. Reading this, more than five months after the events in question, was the first time I learned of the allegations against me. It came as a considerable surprise to me that I had threatened violence against PCS members, and that I had threatened to set myself alight outside Transport House (the Wales TUC headquarters in Cardiff which also housed PCS Wales).

I have never committed an act of violence – nor threatened violence – against anyone. Ever. In my life. My colleagues on UCU Wales Council, and all the full-time officials of UCU dealing with this, and the PCS officials who reported this, appear to have believed without question these quite extraordinary allegations about someone they knew, worked with, and saw frequently. This says a great deal about how ingrained in both UCU and PCS are the ignorant and discriminatory attitudes of people with mental health conditions, and the belief that people with mental health conditions are “unbalanced” (in the words of my colleagues above), dangerous, and a risk to others.

come to Transport House and make a fuss

This email appears to be from a UCU official reporting a conversation with a PCS official. As I explain in an open letter to PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, all I did at the meeting in question, which I attended as convenor of the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales, was make a robust but entirely legitimate challenge to a PCS national vice president over the fact that PCS in Wales was refusing to work with the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales, in breach of its own DWP Group Conference motions.

In fact, I was in a position to prove conclusively that I never made any threats of violence against PCS members, and I never made any threat to set myself alight outside Transport House: as we do with all our direct actions, one of our disabled activists recorded the entirety of the meeting, including every utterance I made.

But I was never given a chance to respond to these utterly ludicrous accusations against me. And I only learned of these allegations more than five months later through a DPA SAR.

How should the writers of these emails (and the PCS officials who contacted UCU and set the police on me) have reacted instead?

The answer to that can be found in the answer to this question: How would these officers and officials have reacted on hearing these allegations had I not had a mental health condition?

  • They would have probably (based on their knowledge of me) been sceptical.
  • They would have probably attempted to ascertain the truth.
  • As part of trying to ascertain the truth, they would almost certainly have called me. All the people involved in the two emails above have my mobile number.
  • It is very unlikely that they would have reported the matter to the police (going through the above steps would have resolved the matter and made involving the police unnecessary).

In fact, in asking how UCU would have dealt with a serious complaint from another trade union against one of our members if that member did not have a mental health condition, we don’t have to rely on conjecture. I am not the only person in UCU Wales against whom another trade union has recently made an unfounded complaint. As explained here, a colleague in UCU Wales was on the receiving end of a complaint from Unite. But in his case, he was not only informed of it by UCU. UCU gave him an opportunity to respond to the allegations. He was believed. And was given the opportunity to give his side of the story to the assembled delegates of UCU Wales Congress and ask for support.

The difference between the way UCU handled the complaint against me compared to that against my colleague could not be more stark. The only difference is that one of the members has a mental health condition – and therefore all accusations of deranged and threatening conduct, no matter how bizarre or unlikely, and believed by UCU without question. Because that is the way people with mental health conditions generally behave.

Liza needs some help

My argument with PCS as the convenor of the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales was an entirely rational one, and was moreover a position that had been democratically arrived-at through debate within the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales. I did not, in fact, “need some help”, as the positions I was advocating had nothing to do with my mental-health condition.

Nor was my challenge to the PCS national vice president a manifestation of mental ill-health in any way. I challenged him over the fact that PCS in Wales was refusing to work with the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales, in breach of its own DWP Group Conference motions.

It is disturbing that criticising PCS on a matter that profoundly impacts on myself and hundreds of thousands of other disabled people is so strongly considered by UCU’s leadership (I believe this email comes from the General Secretary herself) to be incompatible with holding elected office in UCU. If fighting for the interests of disabled people is considered incompatible with holding elected office in a trade union, then we seriously need to consider what the purpose of trade unions is. Particularly given that higher and further education, where UCU’s members work, is considered by the Health and Safety Executive as being one of the most dangerous industrial environments in terms of people becoming disabled as a result of intolerably high levels of workplace stress.

It is also disturbing that, while my employer (a university) is required by Statute to respect my academic freedom, including freedom to advocate positions that may cause offense, UCU does not appear to respect the right of its elected officers to challenge others in the trade union movement, no matter how legitimate that criticism may be.

The comment about the focus needing to be on my health and well-being made me smile. If finding me unfit to hold trade union office without any semblance of due process, treating me according to the most ignorant of discriminatory stereotypes of people with mental health conditions, and colluding in setting the police on me, is how UCU focuses on my health and well-being, then I’d rather go without that kind concern for my health.

Disabled people are used to hearing the “we’re concerned about your health and well-being” justification when they’re being discriminated against, disadvantaged or excluded, or otherwise treated in a way that non-disabled people are not. In a similar way women were previously (and sometimes still) excluded from jobs in engineering or hazardous (but exciting and high-paying) professions. For a long time women were prevented from working in parts of the chemical and nuclear industries because of “concern” that chemicals or radiation could harm any potential children they have.

Excluding someone from elected office in a trade union out of “concern” for their health and well-being when one has made zero attempt to ascertain what the person’s actual health condition is, is discriminatory. A quarter of our members in UCU have mental health conditions. A core principle – possibly the core principle – of trade unionism is “nothing about us without us”. People like us should be represented by people like us: people with mental-health conditions should be fully able to participate in the union and its leadership structures.

grave concerns re fitness to hold office

This is a truly extraordinary email. Remember, I was Wales Vice Chair. And yet my colleagues are speaking about me as if I’m a criminal. The extent to which they have allowed their ignorant prejudices of mental health to “otherise” me is a case-study in discriminatory practice.

At no point does it occur to anyone to speak to me. The way UCU has handled this reminds me of an incident many years ago under the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, when the government set up a commission to look into tightening the law on abortion (there was concern that too many white babies were being aborted). Responding to criticism that there was not a single woman on this commission, the government’s response was, “If we appointed a commission to review criminal sentencing, we wouldn’t appoint criminals to it.”

Whenever there is any concern about a disabled-person’s condition, the person best-placed to give input on the subject is the disabled person themselves. Whenever a disabled-person’s condition is discussed (and there are very few legitimate reasons why it should be in a trade-union context), the disabled person in question must ALWAYS be involved in the discussion. We have lived with our conditions for many years and are generally quite adept at living life, being university lecturers, organising anti-cuts campaigns, and holding trade union office.

I wish to submit the final paragraph of the email above for the Most Hilarious Patronising Comment About A Disabled Person Prize 2013.

My mental health has been widely discussed among my union colleagues and in the wider trade union movement in Wales. At no point has anyone sought to ask me to give input into these discussions. So it might be useful if I briefly summarise my condition.

I have clinical depression and adult ADHD. I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (manic depression) on the basis of a single manic episode 20 years ago, but have not had one since. I have had these conditions all my life, and have been on medication for these conditions most of my life. Despite these conditions I have been able to work in high-pressure jobs, and work to a very high standard of professionalism. Until recently (3 years ago) I never had to take time off work as a result of these conditions. Three years ago a series of extremely stressful traumatic life events triggered an episode of severe clinical depression from which I am slowly recovering.

Until I decided to “come out” as someone with a mental-health condition a couple of years ago, no-one in my professional or social life guessed that I have a mental-health condition, or that I’ve been taking medication every day for all my adult life for clinical depression and ADHD. Had I not chosen to be open about my mental health, most people would still not guess that I have a mental health condition. However, being open about my condition has resulted in many people in the trade union movement interpreting everything I do or say as a manifestation of mental ill-health. People choose to see the label, not the person.

I am informed that many people in the trade union movement describe me as “mentally unstable”, and indeed too “mentally unstable” to hold elected trade union office, or to be involved in campaigning against the ConDem cuts, or to organise a disabled-people’s movement against the Welfare reforms.

Thing is, I am not mentally unstable. I’ll say that again, because I know that folks will have difficulty grasping this: I’m not mentally unstable.

My condition is in fact very stable, and I can say this objectively because this has been repeatedly confirmed by my psychiatrist. (Given that such a great many people in the trade union movement insist that I am mentally unstable, I naturally worry that this may be true. But unlike my trade union colleagues, I seek an opinion on my medical condition from competent qualified professionals.

Neither am I deluded, psychotic, a fantasist, nor paranoid – all diagnoses that the amateur psychiatrists of the trade union movement have made of me. It is also not true that “my opinions are determined by my mental state”, as asserted by a Unison officer in Cardiff: my capacity for rational thinking and ability to articulate an argument on merit remains unimpaired – and remains unchanged despite what “mental state” those who disagree with my arguments may perceive me to be in on the basis of whatever discriminatory stereotypes of mental ill-health they hold.

Another Unison officer (and Socialist Party branch secretary) recently responded to a view I expressed that he disagreed with by telling me to “Fuck off Liza, you psychotic bitch.” There is nothing in my medical history that remotely hints that I am psychotic.

Far more damaging than these clear-cut cases of disability hate speech has been the “When Liza’s well, she’s a brilliant campaigner/ organiser/ trade-unionist” argument which has done the rounds in Cardiff for several months. Those times when I’ve been diagnosed by assorted members of Cardiff Rancid Left as “not well”, and therefore not only unfit to be involved in campaign organising or hold union office, but also such a serious risk to the safety of other people that the police need to be set on me, have in fact been misdiagnoses of other pathological conditions I suffer from. Pathological conditions which, sadly, unlike my mental health, I am not able to control nearly as well and which are on public display far more frequently than my mental health. Pathological conditions such as Expressing Opinions While Female, Disagreeing With The SWP, Getting Really Angry, Criticising PCS For Not Complying With Its Own Conference Motions Re Working With Disabled-People’s Anti-Cuts Groups, and Being Foreign.

Before I “came out” as someone with a mental health condition, these other pathological opinions tended to be be diagnosed by folks in the trade union movement as PITA – pain in the arse. But it has been extraordinary how quick trade unionists have been to ascribe absolutely everything I do or say to their own stereotypes of deranged unhingedness, when in fact I have simply disagreed with them or they with me.

Interestingly, the most vocal proponent of the “When Liza’s well, she’s a brilliant campaigner/organiser/trade-unionist” argument is a member of the NUJ, which has a clear Code of Conduct and excellent Hacked Off Disability Guide (here) committing their members not to use damaging stereotypes of disabled people and particularly those with mental ill-health. The person concerned also served a prison sentence for armed robbery, so one would have thought he’d have an appreciation of the damage that ignorant and discriminatory stereotypes can do.

apologised on behalf of UCU

I organised a disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Cardiff that held very successful high-profile protests, that drew in many people who had never previously been involved in activism, and which significantly raised the profile of the impact on disabled people of the Welfare reforms. If this is “not behaviour that UCU Wales condones”, then perhaps UCU Wales needs to have a good hard think about what its purpose is.

In the email there is a worry that my “behaviour”, of which the UCU official has “significant experience”, will damage UCU Wales. The “behaviour” referred to is my unfortunate habit of fighting for the interests of the UCU members I represent. When the union fails to safeguard the collective interests of a section of its membership, I fight just as hard on my members’ behalf as when management fail to safeguard their interests. This is in no way a manifestation of mental ill-health. It is simply what good trade unionists do. If this kind of behaviour is problematic (to some, but not my members), then perhaps UCU Wales needs to have a good hard think about what its purpose is.

But no matter how much of a pain some of the union’s officials (but not the members I represent) may find my “behaviour”, nothing in my “behaviour” has ever involved threats of violence against anyone. Not even remotely. This email seeks to conflate my “behaviour” as a trade unionist who makes a Big Fuss when the union fails to safeguard her members’ collective interests with the stereotype of a mentally unhinged violent lunatic who is a threat to public safety.

PCS involving police

The above appears to be an exchange between UCU and PCS officials in which it appears to have been determined that the only possible course of action is to set the police on me. Do they never, at any point, consider whether the allegations against me hold water? Do they never, at any point, consider contacting me?

It seems quite extraordinary that trade union officials with many years of experience can act in this way when the entirety of their evidence against me is an exasperated comment I made in a Facebook thread that perhaps PCS will only begin to take notice of the plight of disabled people (73 of whom a week are dying when PCS stops our benefits) if we all go down the Jobcentre and set fire to ourselves. In the context of the Facebook thread, this was very obviously a rhetorical device and was in no way a threat: it was simply an expression of exasperation after I and other disabled activists had been bombarded on Facebook for two days with accusations (from Trotskyists not in PCS) that by advocating that PCS organise a boycott of implementing the Welfare reforms, we were “dividing the working class” and “distracting PCS from its role of leading the build-up for a general strike”.

If that Facebook comment had been made by someone without a mental health condition, there is no way union officials in PCS or UCU would have taken it as a credible threat or a matter for the police. But because I have a mental health condition, it is obvious that I’m a danger to the public.

Yes, I should not have allowed the Trotskyists to wind me up. But I’m not the first trade unionist who’s lost their temper in an argument with Trotskyists, and I won’t be the last. If the police were to be set on every trade unionist who says something unfortunate out of frustration with Trotskyists, then the Metropolitan Police would be spending an awful lot of time at the home of the UCU General Secretary.

officers of council believe she has

At around the time this email was sent (10th January) was the deadline for nominations for UCU Wales Council officers. I had always intended to stand for re-election as Vice Chair, so I was really puzzled and profoundly concerned that none of my Wales Council colleagues was prepared to support my nomination. At the time I was completely unaware of the ludicrous allegations against me, or that my fellow officers of Wales Council believed I had brought the union into disrepute and that I was unfit to hold union office.

This is another reason it is really important to involve disabled people in discussions concerning them: it gives us a sporting chance at re-election for trade union office. My response to my Wales Council colleagues not being prepared to support my nomination was an excess of self-examination and self-doubt as to my abilities as a trade union officer. Had I known that my colleagues’ reasons for not supporting my nomination for re-election was nothing to do with any failings on my part as a trade unionist and entirely due to their ignorant, offensive and discriminatory stereotypes of people with mental health conditions, it would have been a great relief. I would have known then to seek nominations from folks in UCU Wales whose attitudes toward people with mental health conditions is less antediluvian.

GS TUC comment

This email, which appears to be from UCU’s General Secretary Sally Hunt, refers to someone at TUC Executive (presumably Mark Serwotka) saying that PCS members were being threatened. She assumes this is a reference to me. It is not. I did not, and would not, ever threaten PCS members (or anyone else) with physical harm, or with setting myself alight. One would have thought that trade unionists and colleagues who work with me would know this.

keep it quiet

This appears to be an email from the UCU Wales President. What he describes as “clearly being a major issue” only became a major issue because of my colleagues and fellow trade-unionists’ assumption that because I have depression, a very common mental health condition, I am also a risk to the safety of others. That such levels of ignorance of mental-health conditions, and such prejudiced assumptions of those of us with mental-health conditions, exists among the leadership of a trade union whose members have a very high incidence of mental ill-health, is quite extraordinary. UCU members would rightly question whether such a leadership is able to safeguard their interests.

Statistically, having a mental-health condition does not make one any more likely to be violent or a risk to others than the general population. This is true even for those conditions which can present with violence. People with depression are certainly not a risk of violence.

Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma and discrimination: the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses stem in part, from the link between mental illness and violence in the minds of the general public (DHHS, 1999, Corrigan, et al., 2002). Trade unionists should not be perpetuating these damaging stereotypes, let alone applying them to their trade union colleagues.


In summary, how should trade unionists (and members of the wider Left, for example in anti-cuts movements) deal with their colleagues with mental-health conditions if a situation arises that they think is related to the colleague’s health condition?

1. DON’T PANIC! And in particular, don’t call the police. It is horrendously unpleasant to be on the receiving end of an aggressive midnight visit from the police.

2. Before doing anything else, speak to the colleague with the mental health condition. They are better placed than anyone to give input about their disability. And it may well turn out that what was initially mistaken to be a manifestation of unhinged deranged lunacy may not be a manifestation of mental ill-health at all (it might, for example, be the expressing of an entirely legitimate view that you disagree with).

3. Cut out the amateur psychiatry. You would not make diagnoses on the basis of zero evidence of someone’s fitness to hold elected office if they had cancer, diabetes, or were Deaf. Do not assume that a person is “very ill”, or “mentally unstable”, or “is a brilliant trade unionist/ campaigner/ organiser when she is well”, just because some twit from the local anti-cuts movement, trades council or the SWP pronounces it so. When you hear such “diagnoses” being imparted about your colleague, ask yourself, from where did the twit uttering the diagnosis get the information? From a psychiatrist who clinically assessed your colleague and made a professional medical diagnosis? Or is it more likely to be an ignorant, prejudiced comment based on discriminatory stereotypes of people with mental health conditions?

4. Likewise, terms such as “deluded”, “fantasist”, “paranoid”, “unstable”, “unbalanced”, etc, are medical diagnoses, and should not be used by trade unionists unless they are an actual medical diagnosis (and even then, there would be few legitimate reasons why such terms would be used.

5. Terms such as those in point 4 above should never be used to counter arguments with colleagues with mental-health conditions. If you disagree with your colleague, or are of the strong opinion that she is talking out of her arse, then say “I disagree”, or “You’re wrong”, or “Your argument is bollocks”, and explain why. Do not say “you’re deluded”, or “you’re paranoid”, or “Your views are determined by your mental state”. The latter are medical diagnoses, which you are not qualified to make, and which have no place in robust debate. Even if the person you’re arguing with is deluded, or paranoid, or their views are determined by their mental state, you should still engage with their argument on its merits: play the ball, not the player.

6. If you are ever in doubt as to how to deal with a colleague with a mental-health condition, conduct the following thought-experiment: say to yourself, “let’s imagine, hypothetically, that this person does not have a mental-health condition. How would I deal with the situation then?”

7. If recommendation 6 above doesn’t work and you are really, really flummoxed as to how to deal with a colleague who has a mental-health condition, ask yourself, “how would I prefer to be dealt with, if I were on the receiving end of the treatment/attitudes/assumptions that I’m about to apply to my colleague.”

8. And finally, always remember,

Some trade unionists have mental health conditions. Get over it.

If any UCU member, officer, or official, (in particular those who have written the emails featured in this blogpost), would like to make a formal complaint against me for publishing these emails or for the assertions I make here, the Procedure for the regulation of the conduct of members can be found in the members’ area of the UCU website. You will need to make a case that I am in breach of the union’s Rules 13.1/6.1/6.1.1.

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PCS is a fabulous, magnificent trade union. But you’ve just earned yourselves 10/10 in the FAIL department.

A disabled person’s open letter to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

Dear Mark

I am about to leave for London to join my trade union’s delegation at the TUC Women’s Conference. I find myself experiencing considerable anxiety at the prospect of coming into contact with members from the PCS delegation. I am writing to you, therefore, to ask that PCS please not set the police on me again.

About a year ago you gave an invited lecture at the university where I work. When questions were invited from the floor, I opened the questions as UCU Wales Vice Chair and asked,

“Mr Serwotka, it’s fair to say that for a great many of us in the trade union movement, PCS is considered the place you go after you die if you’ve been really, really good, and we consider you personally to be Jesus Christ. What can we as trade unionists do to make our unions more like PCS, and our union leaders more like you?”

You replied with some very useful practical advice on grassroots organising which I put to good effect when, a few months later, I organised a disabled-people’s anti-cuts direct action movement in Wales. This brought me into contact with a great many disabled people, and as a life-long and passionate trade unionist I was appalled at the very negative perception – and often outright hostility – that many disabled people hold about trade unions. I was really shocked, and could not understand this.

I still hold the views about PCS that I expressed when I asked you the question above after your talk at the university. But I have come to understand exactly why so many disabled people hold the trade unions in such low regard. Thanks to PCS setting the police on me for organising a peaceful direct-action campaign against the Welfare reforms. And thanks to PCS’s complaint against me to my own union UCU, as a result of which I am no longer UCU Wales Vice Chair.

When one is committed to peaceful protest and has never carried out nor threatened an act of violence in one’s life, receiving a very aggressive midnight visit from the police concerning one’s “criminal activities” and “plans to commit acts of violence”, followed by similarly aggressive engagement from the police on subsequent occasions, is a terrible shock. And when one is a disabled person, such experiences, as they did in my case, can trigger periods of significant ill-health which renders one somewhat useless as a campaign organiser.

But however awful my experience at the hands of South Wales Police, it was nothing compared to finding out almost three months later that it had been PCS who had set the police on me. And that my own union had known in advance of PCS’s intention to set the police on me, but had done nothing to notify me of this.

Fair enough. As PCS told both the police and UCU, I did make the following statement in a discussion on Facebook:

“I am exhausted to the core of being the hate figure of the trade union movement in Cardiff for having the audacity to object to PCS members destroying our lives. I’m so tired of being attacked by trade unionists who used to be friends and colleagues for “targeting” the poor innocent workers who are implementing the policies destroying us. To be honest, I believe that what PCS needs is a good many disabled people going down the jobcentres round the country and setting ourselves alight in front of them or otherwise committing suicide in horrific ways to show the fuckers what they’re doing to us. I volunteer to go first, I’m fucking exhausted and I don’t want to play anymore.”

I’m a foreigner, and what puzzles me about this is, when PCS passed this Facebook comment on to the South Wales Police and to UCU, you appear to have acted with an absence of the famous British commitment fair play and sportsmanship. Was it really sporting to give this comment to UCU and the police, without also giving them the full comment thread, the two days of acrimonious condemnation of disabled activists in which we were accused of wanting DWP staff to lose their jobs rather than implement the decisions that destroy our lives? In which we were accused (mainly by trotskyists not actually in PCS) of diverting PCS’s building for a general strike with our pathetic disabled-people’s side-issues (namely the fact that according to the DWP’s own figures, 73 disabled people a week die after the DWP stops their benefits)? In which we were accused of “dividing the working class”?

The thread also contained numerous other contributions from myself. In which I go at lengths to explain the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement’s absolute commitment to peaceful direct action. And to absolutely never, never, never targeting individual DWP or Atos employees. I explained how on several occasions I’d had to intervene to stop disabled people advocating hounding DWP/Atos employees on Facebook, or slashing their tyres in DWP car parks. I explained at length how I’d, several times, worked right through the night to talk a desperate disabled person going down to the Jobcentre the next morning and killing themselves (many disabled people find us when they’re searching the internet for ways to commit suicide, believing the DWP has left them with no other option. We show such people that there is a way to channel such desperation in more positive, constructive ways by participating in peaceful direct action. Some of the people I stopped from killing themselves outside DWP workplaces have gone on to be some of our best activists and organisers).

Fair enough, tactically, I can understand PCS’s decision not to include in the complaint to UCU or the police anything about the context in which the comment was made, to exclude all my comments about how we run a peaceful campaign that never targets DWP/Atos staff, to exclude all my comments about how we work very hard to stop disabled people going to DWP workplaces and killing themselves, and to include the only comment in which (after considerable provocation and under tremendous stress) I lost my temper. Tactically, I can understand why PCS did that.

Tactically. If, say, the tactic was to shut down a campaign calling on PCS to organise a boycott of implementing the Welfare reforms that was gaining a UK-wide profile and gathering momentum, that some in PCS felt was in danger of diverting PCS’s attention away from its most important campaigning priority, namely building for a general strike.

It was easy enough to persuade both the police and UCU that I was a danger to the public: it’s well-known that I have a mental health condition. Never mind that folks with clinical depression aren’t generally known for our proclivities for violence. I have a mental health condition, which makes me, in PCS and UCU’s eyes, an unhinged dangerous nutter.

I have no idea whether this was the tactical consideration behind PCS setting the police on me. I’m not in PCS. I couldn’t possibly comment. However, judging by the numbers of PCS reps and officers who’ve contacted me, this does appear to be a hypothesis circulating in PCS.

This may possibly explain some rather startling information that was made available to me when I received, a week ago, the actual complaint against me that PCS made to UCU. Although these events happened in October, I’m only now beginning to learn what actually happened, firstly because no-one bothered to tell me for almost 3 months that it had been PCS that set the police on me, and secondly because UCU’s leadership appears to operate a strict no-engagement policy with members with mental health conditions (fair enough really: not only are people with mental health conditions very dangerous, we’re also very contagious).

So I had to resort to a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request to UCU to try to figure out what the hell PCS had said to UCU. It had, after all, cost me my position as UCU Wales Vice Chair. So I was rather keen to know.

So I was somewhat intrigued to learn the following:


According to PCS, I’d “threatened violence against two PCS members.” And I’d “threatened to set fire to myself outside Transport House” (the Wales TUC headquarters, also home to PCS Wales).

This sure was news to me. But not, evidently, to my union’s leadership. Nor my fellow Officers of UCU Wales Council. Nor, evidently, to quite a lot of the rest of the trade union movement in Cardiff, as their disgusting attitude toward me in recent months suddenly begins to make sense. They’d all known since October that I’d planned to do these things. Yet I’ve only just found out, after a lot of hard work trying to find out what the hell’s going on. Because, when one has a mental health condition, all the normal trade union rules and custom and practice don’t apply. Being included in discussions about oneself, being informed of complaints against oneself, being shown the evidence, being given a right of reply. Stuff like that. Of course you have to suspend these things in the case of people with mental health conditions. Christ, there’s no knowing what they might do if you treated them like human beings. They’d probably go on the rampage or set fire to themselves or something.

And so PCS made the diagnosis, from the Facebook comment I’d made above, that I was planning to set myself alight in front of PCS HQ. Awesome. Ok fair enough. I have a mental health condition. It’s self-evident that when a person with a mental-health condition writes an exasperated Facebook post like the one I wrote, it obviously means they’ve actually planned to intentionally go and set themselves alight outside PCS HQ.

But the accusation that I’d “threatened violence against two PCS members” was a bit of a puzzle. Even given PCS’s expertise with regards making psychiatric diagnoses on the basis of Facebook posts, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what on earth I could possibly have written on Facebook to have given PCS cause to believe that I’d “threatened violence against two PCS members”.

But delving through the pile of senior UCU officers’ & officials’ that arrived from UCU’s legal department as a result of my subject access request, I found this:


So this appears to be a UCU official reporting that a PCS official had “called to say he has had reports from a meeting last night” that I “threatened violence against two PCS members” as well as threatening to set myself alight outside Transport House.

The “meeting last night” refers to a Compass Cymru meeting which I and several other disabled activists attended, at which, on the panel of invited speakers, was a PCS national vice president.

The disabled activists were very unhappy with PCS because PCS in Wales was refusing to talk to, engage with or work with the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales, in breach of PCS DWP Group Conference motions. So we decided we were going to raise the matter with the PCS national VP from the floor – a direct action. So I challenged the PCS VP on PCS Wales’ breach of its own policy toward legitimate disabled-people’s campaign groups, and asked Plaid Cymru president Leanne Wood (also on the panel) whether as a consequence of PCS’s refusal to work with us the Welsh Assembly would fund the mass evacuation of Welsh disabled people to Scotland to become refugees, where our key allies in the Unions were prepared to work with us.

This action was no different to other direct actions we carried out, for example when we went to the Co-operative Group’s South Wales Area Members Meeting and I moved a motion calling on the Co-op to make its supermarket skips accessible to disabled people, given that many of us now have to scavenge for food in supermarket skips thanks to Atos with which the “ethical” Co-op had a business relationship. That action, along with the guerilla hymn-singing storming of a Co-op Bank to hold a memorial service to the Co-op’s lost ethical principles, went viral on the internet and was a huge hit with disabled people, and was instrumental in the Co-op’s decision to drop Atos.

Do you know what the real reason for our campaign against the Co-op was, Mark? We did it for PCS. The Co-op had the same relationship with Atos that the DWP has for its staff: Atos carried out their occupational health. From PCS members we’d learned that Atos is just as horrendous at occupational health as it is at administering the Work Capability Assessments, and causes considerable suffering to PCS members. So we figured, if we went to PCS and said, Look, we forced the Co-op to drop Atos as their occ-health provider. If you organise a boycott among your members of implementing the decisions that destroy our lives re the WCA, we’ll launch a full-on nationwide direct-action campaign against all employers of PCS members that use Atos to do their occ-health.

That was the plan anyway. But it was scuppered by (1) PCS refusing to work with us or even talk to us, and (2) PCS setting the police on the campaign organiser, which kinda put a damper on everyone’s enthusiasm (and in addition caused the organiser an episode of severe ill-health).

So at the Compass meeting, I tried to engage with the PCS vice president afterwards (I’d always previously got along very well with him), to try to persuade him why PCS should work with the disabled-people’s movement in Wales. He told me he was refusing to speak to me on the grounds that I had accused DWP staff of being “murderers”. I was really appalled and assured him I’d never said any such thing, nor would I. He told me again he was refusing to talk to me. I asked him if I could send him an email to articulate our position. He said I could do so (I never got a reply).

Feeling terribly, terribly disheartened, and exhausted, I had an overwhelming need to be alone, so after the exchange with the PCS VP I left the meeting immediately and went home, feeling too depressed to even speak with the other disabled activists.

That is what happened at the meeting at which PCS claims I threatened violence against two PCS members. I know you won’t take my word for that, Mark. I have a mental health condition. Nothing I say can be relied on – these are simply the deranged ravings of a lunatic. Fortunately, therefore, you don’t have to. Because, like we did with all our direct actions, we recorded the entire proceedings. Including my exchange with the PCS VP.

The accusation that I threatened violence against 2 PCS members, and that I threatened to set myself alight outside PCS Wales HQ, are completely baseless. More so, this is, quite frankly, disability hate speech. This plays to the very worst of the most ignorant of discriminatory stereotypes of people with mental health conditions.

PCS has never told me why they set the police on me. But I understand that the reason given to your members who’ve asked is that PCS was concerned for my well-being and asked the police to make a “welfare check” to see whether I was ok.

When the police are asked to make welfare checks, in all other cases I’m aware of (and as admitted to South Wales Police themselves as part of our dispute resolution), they do so immediately. In this case, they sent round their PCS-ordered midnight intimidation squad 2 days after PCS made the complaint.

After PCS went to the police about me, and 36 hours before the intimidation squad actually arrived at my door, I saw several PCS lay reps and PCS Wales full-time officials – at a meeting. Given their very touching concern about my “welfare”, why didn’t any of my PCS comrades enquire after my “welfare” then?

Or if they were so concerned about me, why didn’t they phone me? I know quite a lot of the PCS Wales Council members and full-time officials socially.

If PCS was so concerned that I was a threat to your members, why then, the previous month, had I been allowed to volunteer with most of the PCS Wales council raising money for PCS’s hardship fund by serving with the Workers Beer Company at the Reading Festival? PCS Wales officers were well aware of my mental health because I was unable to work the full-6-hour shifts and they were really nice about allowing me frequent breaks. But given that PCS believes I’m such a fire risk, weren’t you putting your members at risk by letting me camp with them at the festival campsite? Or indeed driving a car-load of PCS folk to the festival & back in my car? Wasn’t PCS worried about what I might get up to with all that petrol in the car?

If PCS was so concerned that I was a threat to your members, why then did PCS not raise any concerns with the university that employs me, that sends me into workplaces full of PCS members to deliver courses? Quite a lot of PCS Wales senior officers knew that I was employed to deliver courses in public sector workplaces, because a couple of weeks before PCS set the police on me, I’d given them leaflets for the university’s workplace courses and asked them to distribute them to their members.

I am significantly disabled, and I am supported in employment by a Remploy support worker. Which several senior officers in PCS Wales knew about. Because I am quite open about discussing my own mental health condition as a concious attempt to normalise and de-stigmatise mental health (ok fair play I did a bit of a rubbish job there with my PCS mates).

Before anyone in PCS decides to set the benefit fraud police on me, I assure you the work I do is all declared, legit and has been given the ok by the DWP. Disabled people on ESA are allowed whatever small amount of supported “permitted work” their condition allows. Which is rather gracious of the DWP, given that even with this work I do not earn enough to live on.

So, at the same time that PCS believed I was such a danger to your members that you had to set the police on me, I was actually delivering courses in civil-service workplaces. In which I often have senior civil servants, Welsh Assembly Members, etc in my classes. And PCS knew about this. Did no-one think that if I really was as unhinged as PCS claimed, surely my employer, my Remploy support worker, or my students might have noticed?

My line manager, the Director of Teaching in a large university department, is a Facebook friend. As are many of my work colleagues and managers. They all followed the disabled-people’s direct action campaign with interest (and a lot more support than I got from UCU or PCS). If my Facebook posts were really so inflammatory (‘scuse the pun) that PCS had no choice but to set the police on me, don’t you think my managers might have noticed, and pulled me out of a very public-facing role?

I’m about to leave for the TUC Women’s Conference now. As well as a UCU delegation, there will be a PCS delegation. I haven’t really been among PCS folk much since you set the police on me and ousted me from trade union office. As you can imagine I’m rather nervous that PCS might set the police on me again. Given what a dangerous, unhinged, deranged – and inflammable – lunatic PCS believes I am, I’m really anxious I might get the police set on me again by accidentally doing something threatening. Like accidentally looking funny at a PCS member. Or giving them the evil eye, so that their crops fail, and their livestock die. Folks with mental health conditions were believed to be able to cast such evil eyes in Medieval times, and were sometimes burned at the stake for it. PCS’s approach to disability equality appears to be similarly Medieval. The one exception is you appear to believe that we burn ourselves alive, rather than you do it for us.

Could you please give me your assurance, Mark, that PCS will not set the police on me again? I assure you that I am totally ok. My medical team are quite happy for me to attend the TUC Women’s Conference. There is really, really, no need for PCS to be concerned about my “welfare”.

I suspect that PCS uses a very different definition of the word “welfare” that disabled people use. The semantics of PCS’s use of the word “welfare” appears to be much closer to the semantics of the ConDem’s use of the word, as in “Welfare Reform Bill”.

In fact, I would very much appreciate it if PCS could refrain from having any further concern for my “welfare”. Ever again. And that of disabled activists generally. We have a right to organise our own campaigns, and to participate in our trade unions, and to hold elected positions in our trade unions. I do appreciate PCS’s touching concern, but disabled people have enough shite to deal with right now thanks to the ConDems, and we really would be very much better off without PCS being concerned for our “welfare” in the way PCS was so concerned for mine.


Dr Liza van Zyl (an unhinged lunatic who once held trade union office but now doesn’t, thanks to PCS)

Featured post

Which trade union is more atrocious at disability equality: PCS or UCU?

Update: I temporarily took this post down in order to think about what to do with it because I was informed at Wales Congress that the planned kangaroo court meeting of my fellow UCU Wales Officers, to discuss how to get rid of me because I have a mental health condition, did not in fact take place.

When one has a mental health condition no one in your union will talk to you or explain what on earth’s going on (mental health is highly contagious after all), so it is impossible to find out anything about what the union’s been up to concerning oneself unless one makes a Data Protection Subject Access Request for all emails/documentation concerning oneself. So the emails I received as a result of the DPA SAR contained much discussion among my fellow officers about their proposed kangaroo court, who they wished invite to give evidence with regards my unhinged-ness, derangedment and general lunacy, etc… but the bundle of emails I received from the Union did not contain the email from a full-time official advising my fellow Officers not to hold such a meeting (presumably on grounds that doing so would be highly discriminatory, profoundly undemocratic and monumentally stupid).

But on the evidence I had available to me through the SAR, there was nothing to indicate that this meeting had not gone ahead. So I utook down this post to have a think about how to update it in the light of this new information.

I’ve decided to leave the post unchanged, because whether or not the kangaroo court went ahead is irrelevant: my fellow Officers’ emails clearly show that they had already decided that I was unfit for trade union office. The issues raised in this post still stand: I am no longer UCU Wales Vice Chair because PCS made outrageous and ludicrous allegations against me and set the police on me because I was a disabled activist organising a peaceful direct-action campaign against the Welfare reforms. And on the basis of discriminatory stereotypes of and assumptions about people with mental health conditions, my fellow Officers of UCU Wales believed all this crap unquestioningly, determined I was unfit for union office without giving me any sight of the allegations against me nor right of reply.

Any doubt that I have been unjustly discriminated against on the basis of my disability were removed when it was revealed that I was not the only person in UCU Wales to have been on the receiving end of an unfounded complaint by another trade union.

Turns out my predecessor as Wales Vice Chair has been unjustly accused by Unite of poaching members, and Unite has made a formal complaint. At the pre-Congress meeting of UCU Wales officers we were very supportive of our colleague. He is no longer a Wales Officer but he was invited to attend the Officers’ meeting to give us his side of the story and tell us in detail what had happened.

We rightly recommended that an emergency motion go to Congress the next day in support of him. Although he was not a delegate to Congress, he was invited to attend and to speak from the podium, to give his side of the story.

The only difference between his case and mine is that I have a mental health condition. In his case, our fellow Officers listened to him, gave him a right of reply to Unite’s complaint against him, and supported him, and urged the assembled delegates to do the same (the motion was, rightly, passed unanimously).

But when PCS made an unjustified complaint against me, no-one informed me of it, nor sought to establish the facts, nor gave me any right of reply. On the contrary, my trade union effectively colluded with PCS setting the police on me. And I am now no longer an Officer of UCU Wales. Because I have a mental health condition.


Original post:

Dear UCU Wales Officers,

Apologies for writing to you by means of a very public blog. But you leave me no choice, because you have denied me any opportunity to participate in your discussions about my fitness to hold the office of UCU Wales Vice Chair on grounds of my mental health. I feel I have much I could contribute to this (public) discussion about my competence and sanity. And given that you appear to be having this discussion with folks across the trade union movement in Wales, I would like to participate. The only way I can do so, given that you appear to be having this discussion in a very public forum, is to participate in a public forum also.

So, PCS sets the police on me for campaigning against the Welfare reforms. And then I find that my position as UCU Wales Vice President has become untenable: none of my fellow Wales Officers is prepared to work with me, talk to me or respond to any of my emails. Then well over two months after the police drag me out of my bed at midnight one night to interrogate me about my “plans to commit criminal acts against Jobcentres”, I learn that UCU knew in advance that PCS intended to set the police on me. And yet nobody in UCU could be arsed to tell me anything about this, raise their concerns with me, warn me that PCS was planning to set the police on me,  give me sight of the “evidence” against me, or give me any right of reply.

Trying to get any information out of UCU about how much was known about PCS’s intention to set the police on me for the crime of being a disabled activist campaigning against the Welfare reforms has been a monumental struggle of several weeks. I appreciate that as the UCU Wales Vice Chair I have no right to the answers to any of my questions given I have a mental health condition.

But yesterday, a special delivery package finally arrived containing the email correspondence between yourselves concerning me that I’d had to resort to requesting from the Union through a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request.

Awesome. What an extraordinary treasure trove of ignorance, prejudice, and discriminatory stereotypes of people with mental health conditions.

I do look forward to seeing you all on Saturday at the UCU Wales Congress. As Vice Chair I’ll be chairing one of the main sessions of Congress. Given your views about people with mental health conditions and their violent inclinations, you must all be bricking yourselves.

But don’t worry, I assure you I will chair the Congress session with absolute professionalism. Don’t forget, I have the same mental health condition as Stephen Fry, and the BBC allows him to chair QI. They probably keep several fire extinguishers handy in case he sets himself alight (this is after all what deranged nutcases like Fry and I do to entertain ourselves).

Under the circumstances I admit I will have to fight uncontrollable urges to make jokes about setting myself alight. Just to watch you brick yourselves. But don’t worry, I’ll do nothing to bring the Union into disrepute.

Despite the extensive commentary to the contrary in your emails, I have never done anything to bring the Union into disrepute. I co-ordinated a superb disabled-people’s anti-cuts campaign in Wales that helped raise awareness of the 73 disabled people a week (according to the DWP’s own figures) who die after their benefits are stopped. I’m proud of that.

I brought a lot of disabled people with no previous experience of campaigning or protest into the campaign and they’ve gone on to be fantastic activists and campaigners. Many disabled people find us when they’re searching the internet for ways to commit suicide, because when the DWP destroys their lives, makes them homeless or destitute, many folks feel suicide is their only option. I showed several such folk that participating in a peaceful direct-action campaign is a much more positive and constructive response to what the DWP is doing to us. Several of those have gone on to be fine activists who’re now organising their own peaceful direct-action campaigns.

I am also proud that as a UCU officer I fought a fantastic campaign on behalf of the one in four of our members who has a mental health condition. Higher and Further Education are such horrendously stressful working environments, it is not at all uncommon for our members to acquire mental-health conditions as a result of workplace stress. What do you think happens to those members when they become too ill to work and lose their jobs? They get subjected to ATOS, and have their lives destroyed for the crime of being disabled along with hundreds of thousands of us.

I’m also proud that I challenged PCS’s refusal to work with the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales (in breach of their own DWP Group Conference motions). This matter was resolved when we bypassed the Socialist Party and SWP officers in PCS who’d been blocking us and approached Mark Serwotka directly. I had believed that in the trade union movement we had a tradition of robust democratic debate. But one’s not allowed to participate in any democratic debate if one has a mental-health condition evidently.

So, let me get this right. It appears that I’ve been forced out of UCU office because:

  1. I co-ordinated a successful disabled-people’s peaceful direct-action movement in Wales to fight the Welfare reforms destroying so many disabled people’s lives,
  2. I pissed off PCS – or rather, the Socialist Party and SWP in PCS (I got huge support from PCS reps across the UK who contacted me to express their disgust at PCS setting the police on me which they recognised was an intimidation tactic intended to shut down democratic debate).
  3. I have a mental health condition (which, in your expertise in all things psychiatric, makes me “unbalanced” and a risk of violence).

And you reckon that I’ve brought the Union into disrepute?!

Colleagues, I will hold my head high on Saturday when I see you at the UCU Wales Congress. Because I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of, and much to be proud of.

Unlike you.

UCU Wales’s kangaroo court

So I “threatened violence against two PCS officers” did I? And I was planning to “set myself alight in front of Transport House” was I? Awesome! Where do you people come up with this ludicrous stuff? And I’m the one who’s supposed to have the mental health condition?!

It didn’t occur to you at any point to try to ascertain the truth of these ludicrous allegations? No evidently not. I have a mental health condition. It’s therefore self-evident that this is how people with mental health conditions behave.

So, according to these documents you convened a secret kangaroo court after the special FESC on 10th November to determine that I was unfit to hold UCU Wales office. The Union’s Head of Legal tells me no notes or minutes exist of this kangaroo court. So I’ll just have to try figure out myself how this meeting must have gone.

Oh hang on. This kangaroo court couldn’t have been convened in order to determine whether I was fit to hold the office of UCU Wales Vice President: you’d already decided I was not. There’s a statement here from the UCU Wales Chair saying that “I have grave doubts about [Loony’s] ability to hold senior posts, particularly those of Chair or President.” And this seems to be the view of my other fellow Wales Officers as well.

Cheers comrades. So you made this determination without making any effort to ascertain the facts. Without bothering to find out anything about my actual medical condition, and whether it was likely that someone with clinical depression with no previous history of violence was a likely risk of violence? And you made this determination without at any point considering discussing any of this with me?

Colleagues, with the expertise in disability issues that you evidently have, and with such astounding adeptness at determining someone’s fitness for something without looking at any medical evidence or any actual facts… have you considered becoming Assessors with ATOS? You’d have really promising careers ahead of you there.

But, I’m a tad confused. I thought (I know I’m being hopelessly naive here) that whether a person held office in the Union, including as Wales Chair or President, depended on an archaic little tradition that trade unions make such a fuss about, called democ

CALLOUT – Sunday 31st August – Stop NATO action against securitisation and policing

South Wales Anarchists

In preparation for the NATO summit, the authorities have put a giant fucking wall around parts of Cardiff and Newport. Local people do not want this wall – it prevents access to public grounds and services, disrupts essential travel and is an ugly visible reminder of the increasingly militarised zone that Cardiff and Newport have become in advance of this Summit.


Whilst they are in no way equivalent, we are mindful of the daily plight of the Palestinian people, hemmed in by giant walls that prevent them from accessing sufficient provisions, medical care or shelter from the prolific murderous Israeli attacks that have recently claimed thousands of lives. We stand against all those states and corporations which would seek to profit from human misery, division and securitisation.

Meet us at 3pm on Sunday 31st August at the security gates nearest to the Nye Bevan statue in Cardiff (west end of Queen Street, opposite the Castle) to make our feelings known.

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Cape Town university ‘alienates blacks, perpetuates whiteness’

Sad. 20 years after I was an undergraduate at Africa’s top university, things don’t seem to have changed much for black students.


Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Black students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) feel overwhelmed by the institution’s “whiteness” even though efforts are underway create a more inclusive campus.

This was among early findings of a research project by a UCT psychology department lecturer, Shose Kessi. This week she presented her talk: Coming to UCT: Black students, transformation and the politics of race.

Her research explores “how to address issues of identity, such as race, class, and gender, that impact on people’s participation in transformation efforts”.

The Harvard University fellow, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics, told a small gathering that UCT is “really good at posing” when it comes to racial integration.

She interviewed 24 students who were black, coloured and Indian to find out “how black students are isolated when they come to UCT”.

“When I went to university it was liberating. For these students…

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Morning Star cover-up of domestic abuse allegation sparks crisis and resignations

I have always been a supporter of the Morning Star, and it saddens me that yet another institution of the Left has proved itself to be seriously lacking on the gender-equality front.

Shiraz Socialist


Above: Caroline Leneghan

An extraordinary crisis has erupted at the Morning Star (de facto mouthpiece of the British Communist Party), resulting in the resignations of the editor and the company director. It stems from reporter Rory McKinnon’s questioning of the RMT leadership over allegations of domestic abuse against the union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley (which Shiraz covered here).

McKinnon, who resigned from the Star on 25 July, has written an account of what happened at the blog Another Angry Woman. This is important, not least because much of the British trade union movement funds the Morning Star (without reference to its membership):


This is a guest post by Rory McKinnon. Content warning for domestic violence. It is published with permission of the survivor.

“The public have no right to know”: how the Morning Star threatened to sack me for reporting domestic violence allegations

My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and…

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Cardiff disabled people need you – yes, YOU! – to visit the final day of their Vigil to ATOS victims today

My guest blog post for DAN Cymru on the Cardiff Atos Vigil.

DAN Cymru - Disabled Activists Network Wales

In a guest post marking her final contribution to the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement before retiring from active involvement in the direct-action disability movement, former DPAC Caerdydd convenor Liza van Zyl explains why it is time for her to step down from further involvement …

… and why it is so important that everyone – EVERYone – who is possibly able to do so, goes to the DWP/ATOS buildings at Gabalfa, Cardiff, TODAY Friday 23rd August, between 11am and 3pm, to show support for some very remarkable people.


I am SO PROUD of  Chris Palmer, David Malins, and Rob Marsh, organisers of this week’s Vigil outside the DWP/ATOS buildings in Cardiff.

And I am SO PROUD to have worked with them and the other Dan Cymru (formerly DPAC Caerdydd) disabled people’s anti-cuts campaigners over the last 12 months.

On Wednesday and Thursday (yesterday) I briefly visited the Vigil. Wasn’t able…

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Sanctions vote passes – now to build on the ground

A welcome outcome from the PCS Conference. Respect to the folk in PCS who worked so hard to brin this about

Civil Service Rank & File Network

2013-05-21 12.46.13Delegates voted overwhelmingly for a motion on non-cooperation with sanctions at PCS Annual Delegate Conference. However, whilst welcome, this only marks a beginning. The task now is to win the argument for and build an explicitly political, rank-and-file led campaign on the ground.

The debate on the role of DWP staff in the sanctions regime has been brewing for a long time. However, thus far the leadership of PCS have side-stepped the debate, suggesting both that non-cooperation wasn’t deliverable and that it wasn’t being called for by staff directly involved. This position has already been forced to shift dramatically in the space of months.

Ahead of conference, several branches submitted motions on non-cooperation with sanctions. When it was revealed that, on legal advice, all were omitted from debate under the union’s rules it caused an uproar that thrust the issue to centre stage.

Claimants groups including Boycott Workfare, Disabled People…

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We need to talk about gender violence in anarchist groups/spaces.

Definitely. And bullying. And prejudice against disabled people.


It happens, it happens a lot, more than a lot of
people think. Having good politics doesn’t mean someone isn’t capable of being
abusive in their own life but refusing to take accusations of abuse seriously
because the accused is such a “good anarchist” is a sign of pretty shitty

This is a discussion that needs to happen and as frustrating as it is it
probably needs to happen many times and the discussion needs to be led by those who have experienced abuse, even if it means people who are used to being heard have to sit back, be quiet and listen.

Too many people (predominately women) have had to withdraw from activism and anarchist organising because of abuse, while abusers face little if any social
consequences for their actions. This is a topic I really want to write more
about but at the moment it is too raw a…

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Achieve Your Potential Or Starve, The Government’s Real Message To Young Disabled People

the void

Atos-for-profitAny campaign from this Government which claims to support disabled people should be viewed with suspicion and the latest offering from the DWP is no exception.

The department yesterday put out a press release boasting: “Celebrities have joined forces with the government to help launch a campaign aiming to promote positive role models for disabled people.”

This campaign features a youtube channel where 50 videos have been posted which have “been produced with a focus on overcoming barriers”.  Many of these videos are unsurprisingly about disabled people who have high flying careers, such as Dame Anne Begg, or are stories of disabled entrepreneurs.

The accompanying press release includes a gushing quote from Emmerdale actor Kitty McGeever explaining how after becoming disabled it ‘took some time to get back into work’ but she managed it with the help of the Government’s Access To Work scheme.

This scheme provides funding for…

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