Monthly Archives: January 2013

Loony Lefty

Update: I am amazed at how widely this blogpost is being shared. Despite being live for just 3 days it is being read on every continent apart from Antarctica. Evidently trade unions everywhere are anxious to learn from PCS and UCU’s outstanding good practice in how to treat disabled trade unionists. I’m being completely inundated by comments, which overwhelmingly are positive and supportive, and I haven’t been able to keep up with managing and moderating them, sorry. There have been several requests for more information. I am preparing responses which I’ll post in another blogpost as soon as I am able. In the meantime, most of the answers to comrades’ questions can be found in the sister blogpost to this one here.

I am also aware of the “welfare visit” defense being circulated by PCS’s defenders. I don’t know whether this defense has originated from within PCS, but as…

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NEVER BLEND IN

 

ONE STRUGGLE - STICK TOGETHER

My story is just one of many, & my pain is small, compared to many people’s suffering from health problems & government & media demonization of people with disabilities.

I learned a lot during some years in the ‘care’ system following family break-up, particularly after being robbed of my 11-Plus pass entitlement to grammar school by a psychiatrist working for Social Services; his skewed opinion meant that I had to start at the bottom of a Secondary Modern school, & go up in steps. Even though it was clear from week one that the top stream would be appropriate, I had to go up in steps, so it took over a year to reach the ‘A’ stream. There was some emotional & sexual abuse in the children’s home, but it wasn’t a hell-hole like many kids had to endure. In 4th year, I was fostered, & got a scholarship…

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the void

vultureThe recent Demos think tank report – which suggests that smart cards could be used to prevent tenants falling into rent arrears when Universal Credit is launched –  is an astonishing piece of corporate blagging.

The report, which was funded by Mastercard, suggests that tenants worried about managing rent payments could have housing benefits loaded onto a smart card which they then use to pay their landlord.

This, they claim, will solve the problems that are likely to be caused by Direct Payments, which mean tenants can no longer have Housing Benefit sent to landlords.  Instead Demos suggest the money is given to someone like Mastercard, who then put it on a smartcard for the tenant, who then gives it to the landlord.  And Mastercard Demos then presumably want to charge either the tax payer, or the claimant, for the privilege of this completely unnecessary middle-man.

The obvious solution…

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UCU’s Sally Hunt sides with the Trots

So PCS sets the police on me for organising a peaceful direct-action campaign against the deaths of 73 disabled people a week. And also makes a complaint to my own union. With the result that my role as UCU Wales vice chair becomes untenable.

How does UCU respond to a serious complaint against one of their officers?

  1. No-one tells me about it until almost 3 months later. Despite the fact that UCU knew about PCS’s intentions to set the police on me before it happened.
  2. In the general secretary’s correspondence to PCS on this matter, it doesn’t occur to her, or any of her senior officials, to perhaps talk to me or ask for any input or right of reply from me.
  3. The general secretary and president absolutely refuse to meet me face to face so that I can explain why PCS’s complaint had no basis whatsoever. And so that I have a chance to demonstrate that, despite having a mental health condition, I am not the deranged homicidal lunatic I have been so widely portrayed as being across the Left (cheers comrades). They refuse to let me speak to them. Not even ever-so-briefly. Not even though I’m at UCU’s London headquarters on a fairly frequent basis as a member of national committees to which I have been elected.
  4. My colleagues on UCU Wales Council contact the Wales Chair to “express concern” about Facebook comments I make about PCS. I’m not told what these concerns are. Because none of my colleagues on Wales Council will take their “concerns” up with me directly. But I suspect the posts which they’re “concerned” about are the ones where I struggle with anger-management issues over the fact that PCS sent an intimidation squad of police round at midnight.
  5. Despite not talking to me, my colleagues on Wales Council are happy to discuss my mental health with the many armchair psychiatrists in the South Wales trade union movement who have taken on self-appointed roles of expounding at length on my mental health. Their diagnoses diverge rather dramatically from my actual medical diagnosis and appear to be peppered with terminology such as “deluded”, “psychotic”, “unstable”. But I can’t address my Wales Council colleagues’ concerns. Because they won’t talk to me.

Is it coz I iz a nutter?

I am pretty sure that UCU’s bizarre behaviour toward me is dominated by misconceptions about mental health. But how do you reassure people that you’re not a deranged nutter when they won’t give you a chance to talk to them face to face? Are they really that afraid of me?

Are disabled people the Kronstadt sailors of the Left?

In 1921 Lenin and Trotsky sent the Red Army troops to mow down their comrades at Kronstadt. A lot of disabled activists have expressed the view to me that the trade unions have become part of the apparatus of our oppression, and that the Left is not doing anything near at it could or should be doing to stop the deaths of 73 of us a week (according to the DWP’s own figures) when DWP employees stop our benefits.

As a lifelong trade unionist I have tended to speak out strongly against the view that the trade unions are not interested in stopping the destruction of hundreds of thousands of disabled people’s lives. But I have to say it’s becoming increasingly hard. I’m finding very little evidence to support the view that the trade unions give a damn about us. And there sure is a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest that they don’t. PCS and UCU’s treatment of me over the issue of PCS setting the police on me is challenging my belief in the trade union movement to the core.

It is hard to resist the Kronstadt interpretation in the way PCS and UCU have dealt with me.

By refusing to give me a right of reply to the complaint, by responding to PCS without ascertaining the facts, and by refusing to allow this matter to be dealt with democratically through UCU’s disabled members’ committee, the GS has effectively colluded with the trotskyists in PCS who believe it is appropriate to progress political arguments by shutting down the opposition by any means necessary, including unseating them from elected office in other unions and setting the police on them.

As a trade unionist I’ve worked very well with trotskyists and count many among the trade unionists I most respect and admire. I have strongly opposed the witch-hunting of trotskyists. But it is undeniable that there are elements within trotskyist groups that believe themselves to be above trade union rules when it comes to furthering their objectives.

And as can be seen from the chaos in the SWP at the moment over their kangaroo-court dealing with a rape allegation against a member of the CC rather than involve the police on grounds that they have no faith in the bourgeois police and the bourgeois court system to deliver justice, there are elements within trotskyist groups that believe themselves to be above the bourgeois legal system.

But as my experience seems to indicate, the trotskyists in PCS are not above making use of the bourgeois police to intimidate the convenor of a disabled-people’s movement whose objectives are an inconvenient distraction to their own. By not ascertaining the facts and refusing me a right of response to the complaint, the UCU general secretary has allowed herself to be an unwitting tool in carrying out a trotskyist political agenda.

Correspondence with UCU general secretary

Dear Sally

Until recently I was the convenor of the disabled-people’s direct-action anti-cuts movement in Cardiff. I learned just before Christmas that PCS made a complaint against me to UCU about my campaigning activities. PCS also complained against me to the police.

I would like to meet with you to reassure you that I am in no way a danger to DWP staff, PCS members, UCU members or anyone else. I am coming to London on Thursday for Friday’s meeting of the Commission on Trade Union Democracy, and would very much appreciate the opportunity to give you this reassurance in person.

The Facebook quote that PCS cited in their complaint against me (that perhaps if more disabled people were to go set themselves alight in front of DWP staff, that might facilitate PCS taking the plight of disabled people more seriously) was taken completely out of context: it was an expression of exasperation that came at the end of a lengthy thread in which disabled activists were being given a really hard time by elements of the ultra-left for campaigning against the DWP (which is felt by some to be an attack on PCS – disabled people are being accused by some elements of the ultra-left of “dividing the working class” and “attacking rank and file workers” for campaigning against the Welfare Reforms, because it is felt by some that focusing on what’s happening to disabled people will take PCS’s focus away from leading the build-up to a general strike).

As the convenor of the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Cardiff I always made it very clear (there’s plenty of evidence of this on Facebook) that we never target individual DWP staff. I had on several occasions had to stop disabled people from targetting DWP staff (slashing tyres, bullying DWP employees on Facebook, etc) and I’ve twice had to spend an entire night talking a desperate disabled person out of going down the Jobcentre the following morning and committing suicide in front of DWP employees in some horrific fashion.

My commitment to ensuring that DWP employees are not targetted is well-documented on Facebook and elsewhere, and was also well-known to the PCS Wales office. I met with them in September to discuss the campaign and to impress upon them that while the DWP was a legitimate target for peaceful direct action (given that it is the arm of the state that is responsible for the deaths of 73 disabled people a week), we were in no way targetting DWP employees and would make that very clear to all our activists and supporters. I asked PCS at that meeting to phone me on my mobile at any time of night or day should any disabled person threaten or attack DWP employees so that I could persuade the person concerned that there are more constructive ways to protest. People are desperate: hundreds of thousands of disabled people are having their lives destroyed by the DWP and 73 of us are dying every week after our benefits are stopped. People are understandably being driven to desperate acts. But such individual acts of desperation are negative and destructive; it is the aim of the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement to channel such energies into more positive and constructive forms of protest, namely peaceful direct action.

PCS had no grounds for complaining to UCU about me. Nor had they grounds for setting the police on me. I believe this would not have happened had I not had a mental health condition. Ever since I ‘came out’ as a trade unionist with a mental health condition I have been appalled at how widespread within the trade union movement are discriminatory stereotypes of mental illness. Having a mental health condition in no way makes me a danger to DWP employees or anyone else, and anyone who takes the trouble to speak to me for 5 minutes will be able to see this.

PCS’s complaint against me to the police resulted in a very frightening midnight visit from the police and subsequent targetting and bullying from the police. Following an investigation into my complaint South Wales Police have admitted they were at fault in the way they handled the issue and a number of their officers have been formally ‘given advice’ on the matter. I refer you to the complaint I made against South Wales Police (this text deals only with the first of several episodes of police harassment resulting from the PCS complaint against me):

http://tompride.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/police-question-disability-activist-about-criminal-posts-on-facebook-update/

As I’m sure you will agree, subjecting someone to an experience like that described above because they advocated that disabled people exercise their right to peaceful direct action against the DWP is completely unacceptable. Doubly so, given that the decision to go to the police (rather than take a more sensible approach to addressing concerns, like discussing them with me directly) appears to have been taken on the basis of discriminatory prejudices of mental ill-health and a belief that people like myself are “dangerous” because we have mental health conditions. Triply so, given that PCS is a trade union, and should not be silencing anti-cuts campaigners and shutting down legitimate debate.

UCU Wales is of course very concerned that my activities as a disabled activist and anti-cuts campaigner will damage UCU’s relationship with PCS. It has been put to me that perhaps it would be better if I stand down as UCU Wales vice chair. I do not want to cause UCU any trouble; I have therefore agreed to take no further part in the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement and have ceased all disability activism.

I do believe, however, that it is important that other disabled people in UCU should be able to campaign against the Welfare Reforms that are killing 73 of us a week without fear of PCS setting the police on them. I am therefore asking the Disabled Members Standing Committee to ask the NEC to seek clarification from PCS, perhaps something along the following lines:

UCU would like to request clarification from PCS as to how our members should best campaign against the Welfare Reforms. Higher and further education are recognised by the HSE to be among the most stressful working environments in the UK and as a result there is a high incidence of mental ill-health among our members. Many of our members become to ill to work, and as a result are subject to the Work Capability Assessment, a process which is leaving many disabled people homeless and destitute.

We are concerned that PCS complained to the police and to UCU about the campaigning activities of a disability activist in Cardiff who is a UCU member. While we have no position on whether disabled people should take peaceful direct action against the DWP as part of the campaign against the Welfare Reforms, we believe that it is legitimate for disabled people to advocate such views, and should be free to do so without being reported to the police by a trade union. If PCS had concerns, we believe there were other, more appropriate ways, to address them.

Yours,

Loony Lefty

—–

Dear [Loony]

My apologies but i won t be in the office tomorrow. I m not sure a meeting is needed regardless.

I ve read through your letter a number of times and have re read the post on your Facebook page where you said

You guys do what you want. 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 appreciate that you say this was taken out of context but it did cause genuine anxiety within PCS who have a duty to represent and protect their members. Out of respect for another union and I assume because they were aware you were active in UCU they made UCU aware but I have to say, they were within their right s to contact the police given the concern that they had following that post.

You ask us to contact them. That has been done via Helen Carr, Head of Equality and she will update the relevant committee members.

She has forwarded to me the joint statement from PCS, DPAC and Black Triangle on campaigning against welfare cuts. In it they make clear their opposition but also state that “PCS members are often on the frontline, facing the anguish and anger of those suffering from government welfare policies. PCS members did not create these policies, the union does not support them and is committed to campaigning against them”.

You say you were and are ill. That is obviously a factor to be considered and thank you for your openness on that. You deserve the same openness in return. If you are an officer of the union, you cannot assume that your conduct in public meetings or other public forums will be seen as separate. I make no judgement either way on that , it is simply a fact. As Vice Chair of UCU Wales therefore, the facebook posting was one which was seen by people in that context. I fully support therefore the actions of fellow Welsh officers where they have sought to discuss this with you.

We are all fighting the attacks on the most vulnerable in our society but this cannot be helped by attacking each other. The relationship with PCS is important to UCU. Our support for our members is equally important.

Yours

s

Dear Sally,

With respect, I strongly object to UCU claiming that PCS was justified in setting the police on me when you are not in possession of the full facts.

Yes, I made a stupid post on Facebook. But this in no way justifies dealing with it by involving the police. This is one single post that should be set against the very many public statements I have made on Facebook and elsewhere that we absolutely will not tolerate targetting, harassing or threatening DWP staff. I had a very good working relationship with the officials in the PCS Wales office, and close friendships with several PCS Wales Council members including the vice president  all to whom I had made our position as disability activists very clear, that we will not target DWP employees or threaten them in any way.

In the context of the very lengthy Facebook debate it was a part of, it is very clear that my post was an expression of extreme frustration against the trotskyists (many of them not in PCS) who were condemning us for seeking to “distract” PCS’s attention away from building for a general strike.

The decision to set the police on me was a political attack on me and the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement. It was an attempt to shut down political debate what PCS’s campaigning priorities should be. Over the last few months I have been contacted by a number of members of the PCS DWP Group Executive Council who have reported that the trotskyist dominant group of the GEC is of the belief that PCS’s primary objective is to build for a general strike, and that the “decks should be cleared” of all other campaigning priorities. GEC members who have argued in GEC meetings that other industrial issues within the DWP group should not be deprioritised have been threatened with PCS disciplinary action by the dominant trotskyist faction. The PCS GEC is also failing to implement Group Conference policy with regards campaigning against the Welfare reforms.

Yes, my post on Facebook was stupid. But it needs to be seen in context. It handed a faction within PCS a perfect excuse to shut down an area of debate that was gathering momentum. If PCS was genuinely concerned that I was a danger to DWP staff, why did they not use the system we had already agreed should such concerns arise: that the PCS Wales Office would phone me?

There is no justification for PCS to have set the police on me, and this will be clear if all the facts are taken into account. This is a political issue, and should be dealt with politically: through debate within UCU’s committees. This is a wider issue concerning disabled people’s right to campaign against the arm of the state that is killing 73 of us a week, and it is an issue which concerns many UCU members.

If UCU responds to PCS by telling them they were justified to set the police on me without there being any debate within UCU’s democratic structures on this matter, then UCU will have done a great disservice to its disabled members, and I shall resign all my positions in UCU in protest and have nothing further to do with the union.

Loony Lefty

Update: PCS trade union sets police on disabled activist for campaigning against the government

Update: I am amazed at how widely this blogpost is being shared. Despite being live for just 3 days it is being read on every continent apart from Antarctica. Evidently trade unions everywhere are anxious to learn from PCS and UCU’s outstanding good practice in how to treat disabled trade unionists. I’m being completely inundated by comments, which overwhelmingly are positive and supportive, and I haven’t been able to keep up with managing and moderating them, sorry. There have been several requests for more information. I am preparing responses which I’ll post in another blogpost as soon as I am able. In the meantime, most of the answers to comrades’ questions can be found in the sister blogpost to this one here.

I am also aware of the “welfare visit” defense being circulated by PCS’s defenders. I don’t know whether this defense has originated from within PCS, but as the union’s never contacted me with an explanation for its actions I’ve no idea what their defense/justification is. I would encourage all the PCS folks who’ve contacted me to share their disgust at their union’s behaviour to ask for an explanation. And if someone could share that explanation with me I’d be much obliged. 

One night in October I was awakened near midnight by the police, who told me they had come to ask me some questions relating to my “criminal Facebook posts”. They proceeded to question me very aggressively about my activities as convenor of DPAC Caerdydd, a Disabled People Against Cuts direct-action campaigning group in Cardiff.

The full complaint to South Wales Police over the incident was published by the political blogger Tom Pride, and the police’s actions attracted a great deal of condemnation from MPs, Welsh Assembly members, the disability activism community and the wider Left, and there was much concern about whether the police were deliberately targetting disability activists.

But it turned out that the police had been set on me by none other than PCS, the trade union that has been in the vanguard of the fight against the ConDem government.

No. I couldn’t believe it either. Let me try say that again. PCS set the police on me for organising a peaceful direct-action campaign against the Welfare Reforms.

Cheers comrades.

PCS also made a complaint to my own union, UCU, of which I am Wales vice chair. UCU knew that PCS were intending to set the police on me before the arrival of South Wales Police at my door. And yet no-one in UCU deemed it necessary to inform me that (a) PCS had made a complaint of a very serious nature against me, and (b) that they had also gone to the police.

Cheers comrades.

I’m not sure which is more unforgivable. That PCS set the police on me as a means of shutting down a line of argument they didn’t like, or that my own trade union colluded in this.

Because of UCU Wales’ concerns about the possible damage my disability activism may do to our relationship with PCS, I have agreed to stand down as convenor of the disabled-people’s movement in Wales and have no further involvement in disability activism. This does not appear to have been sufficient reassurance that I will not get up PCS’s nose again, as I have been manoeuvred out of the Wales Vice Chair position. I will have no further role in UCU Wales.

Cheers comrades.

Keeping a promise to a policeman

South Wales Police have a disastrous track-record when it comes to the policing of peaceful protest. And it is undeniable that there are very serious problems with regards the way the police across the UK handle complaints or are held to account for their actions – one only needs to remember Ian Tomlinson and Mark Duggan.

But in this case, South Wales Police turned out to not be the Bad Guys. The offices who arrived at my door that night handled things appallingly – but they were being used as pawns to further a political objective, namely shut up that annoying campaigner who’s criticising us. They were acting on information given to them by PCS: a cynical use of comments extracted from a lengthy and highly adversarial Facebook comment thread and taken completely out of context, that I was a “threat” to DWP employees.

The South Wales Police’s handling of my formal complaint against them has been outstanding. I am fully satisfied with the steps that will be taken to ensure that the officers in question understand why their conduct on the night (and subsequently at protests when I was identified and labled a “ringleader” of protests I had not organised) was unacceptable. The Chief Constable will be sending out a brief to all officers about their duties to facilitate peaceful protest by disabled people against the DWP’s barbarity, with particular reference to facilitating lawful protest and campaigning activities carried out by those of us with mental health conditions.

While there were failings on the part of the police (not insignificant failings – and they had consequences in terms of the impact on my health), these failings are minuscule compared to the disgraceful roles played by PCS and UCU in this saga. In addition, in complete contrast to PCS and UCU, the police’s handling of my complaint against them has been simply outstanding.

I really appreciate the amount of time they took to deal with matters and to really listen to me with compassion, and their willingness to acknowledge that the officers’ conduct fell short, and their bending-over-backwards to address my concerns.

I therefore wish to set the record straight publicly by publishing the letter below to the inspector who dealt with my complaint against the South Wales Police, and will ask Tom Pride to update the original blog post accordingly. In the letter below, names have been removed.

Dear Inspector X,

I apologise for my long delay in responding to you. I am happy to sign off the paperwork and confirm that I agree for South Wales Police to resolve the complaint through Local Resolution, with the steps you outline in the document you sent me with regards the advice that will be given to the officers concerned.

The reason for my delay in responding to you is that I have come upon more information about the original report made to the police that led to the incident of October 26th. This information raises further matters which need resolving and which I need to bring to the attention of the police. I am unsure how best to take these matters forward. I would be very grateful for an opportunity to meet with you again to discuss these matters and the issues they raise, and to explore the options available to me to proceed.

I now know why the police were approached with regards the concerns that I was a danger to DWP staff, and I also now know who raised these concerns.

In terms of Who: I have been informed by my own trade union, UCU, in which I hold office as Wales Vice Chair, that it was the trade union PCS that approached the police with a concern that I presented a danger to DWP employees.

In terms of Why: there were no reasonable grounds for PCS to genuinely believe I was a danger to their members working in the DWP. The decision to go to the police was a political decision, namely to do with the internal politics within PCS, and was motivated by a desire to shut down legitimate debate about PCS’s campaigning priorities with regards opposing the Welfare Reforms. The South Wales Police had no option but to act on the information presented to them by PCS. The police were used as a tool in pursuit of a political objective by an internal political faction of the union, namely to shut down criticism (through intimidation) that by refusing to engage with the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales (of which I was the leader) PCS was breaching its own DWP Group Conference motions and policy, and was failing to take seriously the deaths of 73 disabled people a week that are dying after having their benefits stopped.

I therefore believe that those who made the decision to set the police on me acted maliciously and are guilty of wasting police time.

The Facebook quote that PCS cited in their complaint against me (that perhaps if more disabled people were to go set themselves alight in front of DWP staff, that might facilitate PCS taking the plight of disabled people more seriously) was taken completely out of context: it was an expression of exasperation that came at the end of a lengthy thread in which disabled activists were being given a really hard time by elements of the ultra-left for campaigning against the DWP (which is felt by some to be an attack on PCS – disabled people are being accused by some elements of the ultra-left of “dividing the working class” and “attacking rank and file workers” for campaigning against the Welfare Reforms, because it is felt by some that focusing on what’s happening to disabled people will take PCS’s focus away from leading the build-up to a general strike).

PCS had absolutely no grounds for their “concern” that I was a risk to DWP staff:

  1. As the convenor of the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Cardiff I always made it very clear (there’s plenty of evidence of this on Facebook) that we never target individual DWP staff. I had on several occasions had to stop disabled people from targetting DWP staff (slashing tyres, bullying DWP employees on Facebook, etc) and I’ve twice had to spend an entire night talking a desperate disabled person out of going down the Jobcentre the following morning and committing suicide in front of DWP employees in some horrific fashion.
  1. I repeatedly made the above very clear in the same Facebook thread in which I made the exasperated and furious comment that it would need disabled people to go set ourselves alight in front of jobcentre staff before PCS would take our plight seriously. It is very clear to anyone reading the thread in its entirety that my comment was an an expression of exasperation against those who were accusing disabled people of “dividing the working class” by distracting PCS from its job of leading the build-up for a general strike.
  1. Our Facebook forum contained some 700 members, mainly disabled people whose lives are being destroyed by the DWP, but also all of the PCS reps in South Wales who’re on Facebook, including most of the PCS Wales Council and PCS Wales Office staff. The forum was used by many disabled people to sound off, and we frequently had to deal with very desperate people expressing very desperate views about the DWP and its employees. The PCS officers and officials were well aware of the numerous times I articulated the principles in point 1 above. Many disabled people made far worse comments about DWP staff, and far more overt threats against them (which I dealt with robustly), than I did in the comment PCS cite in their complaint against me.
  1. My commitment to ensuring that DWP employees are not targetted, as well as being well-documented on Facebook and elsewhere, was also well known to the PCS Wales office. I met with them in September to discuss the campaign and to impress upon them that while the DWP was a legitimate target for peaceful direct action (given that it is the arm of the state that is responsible for the deaths of 73 disabled people a week), we were in no way targetting DWP employees and would make that very clear to all our activists and supporters. I asked PCS at that meeting to phone me on my mobile at any time of night or day should any disabled person threaten or attack DWP employees so that I could persuade the person concerned that there are more constructive ways to protest. People are desperate: hundreds of thousands of disabled people are having their lives destroyed by the DWP and 73 of us are dying every week after our benefits are stopped. People are understandably being driven to desperate acts. But such individual acts of desperation are negative and destructive; it is the aim of the disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement to channel such energies into more positive and constructive forms of protest, namely peaceful direct action.
  1. Earlier in October the PCS Wales General Secretary, Mark Serwotka, was the invited speaker at a Merthyr Tydfil Trades Council meeting, the president of which is a senior PCS officer on the PCS Wales Council and TUC Wales General Council. Serwotka had to return to London that same night and there was no convenient train from Merthyr to Cardiff. So during the planning of the meeting, I was asked if I would mind giving Serwotka a lift from Merthyr to Cardiff [in the event I didn’t need to do so as an alternative was found].

If PCS officers were willing to entrust their General Secretary to me for a 30-mile drive from Merthyr at night and alone, it is ludicrous for them to claim that less than 3 weeks later I’m such a threat to the safety of their members that it justifies involving the police.

  1. The disabled-people’s anti-cuts movement in Wales had only been formed in August, but by October it was the most high-profile of all the disabled-people’s anti-cuts groups in the UK, carrying out high-profile direct-actions on a weekly or fortnightly basis. The Welsh movement also had the most challenging attitude to PCS, and was becoming increasingly vocal in its criticism of PCS Wales for failing to engage with the disabled-people’s movement in Wales and for breaching its own conference policy and motions with regards campaigning against the Welfare reforms.
  1. In addition to going to the police, PCS also made a complaint to my own union UCU. This is not the first time UCU has received a complaint from PCS in relation to myself: earlier this year [a senior elected officer] of PCS (of the same political faction as the faction that believes “the decks should be cleared” of other campaigning priorities to build for a general strike) made a complaint to UCU against me in my capacity as UCU Wales Vice Chair that was found by PCS to have been groundless and an inappropriate use of [PCS elected office] in order to make a political attack. The [PCS officer] was miffed with me because I had stopped her political party, the Socialist Party, from inappropriately – and in breach of UCU rules – using a UCU branch as a platform for political entryism. I was subjected to a good deal of bullying from Socialist Party full-time officials because of this, and the complaint to UCU by the [PCS Officer], who is a senior officer in the Socialist Party, was a political attack on me. I am giving you this example to show that political factions in PCS are not adverse to making malicious complaints against those they perceive to be their political enemies in order to achieve political objectives.

Therefore I believe that PCS had no grounds to go to the police, and I further believe that the action was malicious and an attempt to intimidate me (which was successful) and make my position as UCU Wales Vice Chair untenable (also successful) in order to shut down debate about the most effective way to campaign against the Welfare Reforms and legitimate criticism of PCS.

It is completely unacceptable that a trade union (or more correctly a political faction within a trade union) should seek to shut down legitimate debate and criticism by setting the police on a disability activist with no justification. I am also very aware of what a bad press South Wales Police have had as a result of this incident, which has received the scrutiny of the press and several AMs and MPs. While the officers handled the case badly, it is not true, as many initially believed, that the South Wales Police are trying to intimidate disabled activists. On the contrary, the South Wales Police officers who have dealt with our direct actions have overwhelmingly been outstanding, and have treated us immense compassion and sympathy, even when we have put them in some incredibly unpleasant positions, for example forcing them to arrest us and drag us out of roads during rush-hour traffic.

It is completely unacceptable that the South Wales Police are now widely viewed as oppressing disabled protesters when in fact they were simply used as a tool by a political faction of a trade union. This is particularly unjust given that many of our disabled activists have received much more compassion, sympathy and support for our cause from the police officers sent to deal with the chaos our direct actions cause, than we have from DWP staff and members of PCS.

I am anxious to set the record straight, and with your permission I would like to ask the political blogger Tom Pride to publish this letter to you (edited for anonymity) as an update to his post linked to here, and to send a copy of the letter to those MPs and AMs who offered to pursue the matter on my behalf.

http://tompride.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/police-question-disability-activist-about-criminal-posts-on-facebook-update/

The question I am now faced with is what do I do about the matters above. This episode caused me immense distress and impacted negatively on my health. It is intolerable that a political faction within a trade union should intimidate a disabled activist in this way simply because they don’t like the arguments her movement are articulating. I had hoped to address this matter through my own trade union’s democratic structures, to get UCU to fraternally, tactfully, and in the most constructive way possible, indicate to PCS that the intimidation of disabled activists in this manner is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately this option has been shut down by the UCU general secretary.

My only option therefore is to make a complaint to the police against those who initiated the matter with the police[*], on grounds that it was malicious. I would also strongly urge you to pursue a case of wasting police time against the perpetrators, and when I meet with you I will give you all the evidence I have at my disposal.

It is, however, very important to me to not cause trouble for PCS employees. I do not know who exactly from PCS went to the police, but the chances were that it was a PCS employee acting on the instructions of an elected PCS officer. It is the elected officers and the political faction they are a part of who are guilty of this cynical use of the police to intimidate me and shut down a line of argument they didn’t like which was gaining public momentum  not the PCS employee who carried out their instruction. Could you outline for me what the consequences would be for the person who went to the police initially should I make a complaint?

Please let me know when would be convenient for us to meet again. I am free all week this week.

I would like to say how impressed I am with the way my complaint over the conduct of the police officers has been handled. I very much appreciate the time you and your colleagues have put into investigating this matter. I also very much appreciate the way I was listened to, and the way all my concerns were taken seriously and addressed. As a trade union officer experienced in representing members in grievances, I can honestly say that the South Wales Police’s handling of complaints, and complainants, is considerably superior to the way complaints are dealt with in the workplaces I’m familiar with, and within our trade unions.

Yours,

Loony Lefty

[*] In the end, and after discussion with the police, I decided not to make a complaint to the police against PCS. As a trade unionist I do not feel it is appropriate to set the police on other trade unionists. Even when they do so to me.

Welsh disabled-people’s anti-cuts campaign’s response to DPAC-PCS-Black Triangle Joint Statement

Presented to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka by Wales disability activists on 19th November 2012 in Cardiff.

DPAC Cymru badge

Note: we called ourselves DPAC Cymru – Disabled People Against Cuts Wales – but a few days after we published this statement, DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) expelled us from the organisation.

Disabled People Against Cuts Cymru response to DPAC-PCS-Black Triangle Joint Statement

on Campaigning Against Welfare Cuts

Presented to PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka by DPAC Cymru on 19th November 2012

Disabled People Against Cuts Cymru welcomes this Joint Statement as a crucial first step towards a united opposition to the Government’s social security cuts. However, we feel that there are still some issues which need to be resolved.

We greatly regret that disabled people in Wales and their anti-cuts groups (e.g. DPAC Caerdydd, DPAC Cymru) were not consulted and thus had no opportunity to contribute to the Joint Statement.

  1. According to the DWP’s own figures, 73 disabled people a week die after having their benefits stopped by the DWP. The Joint Statement contains no action plans or strategies for preventing this inhumanity.

  1. Many of the people affected by the welfare “reforms” are ex-service personnel who became disabled as a result of their military service. We are concerned by how many Appeal Tribunal Panels are finding that DWP and Atos staff are breaching the DWP’s own policies and rules by not taking into account letters from the Serving Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) when making decisions on awarding benefits. DPAC Cymru believes this is a fundamental breach of the government’s much vaunted Military Covenant.

  1. DPAC Cymru believes that PCS as a union and disabled people’s anti-cuts organisations should work together to boycott implementation of the Welfare reforms.

  1. We are not advocating that individual members of DWP staff refuse to stop disabled people’s benefits without the backing of their Union; we believe that PCS as a union should boycott the implementation of the Welfare reforms, in the same way that the teaching unions in Scotland organised a successful boycott of SATS. Government policy cannot be implemented without workers to implement it.
  1. We acknowledge that that the DWP is a brutal employer whose staff are poorly-paid and badly treated, and we recognise how distressing it must be to have to make decisions which may contribute directly to a person’s death. DPAC Cymru believes that, as the effect of making such decisions cannot be ‘left at the office door,’ a mass refusal to implement these cuts would result in a significant improvement in DWP staff’s morale and well-being both in their work and in their personal and family lives.

We therefore do not accept that a Union-led campaign to boycott the stopping of disabled people’s benefits would inevitably result in them losing their jobs.

That being said, we do not believe it is reasonable to minimise the all too real effects that these cuts have on the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people, which include destitution, homelessness and the deaths of 73 disabled people each and every week.

  1. DPAC Cymru has serious concerns that while the Joint Statement supports peaceful direct action against politicians who have supported these policies and against those companies that stand to profit from them, there is no clarification as to whether PCS respects the right of disabled people to take peaceful direct action against the DWP. This is particularly concerning given that several vulnerable disabled activists were harassed by police, including in the middle of the night, over Facebook posts critical of PCS and DWP.

  1. DPAC Cymru would like to see a revised Joint Statement that includes the voices of disabled people in Wales since responsibility for health and social care is devolved to the National Assembly, and that commits PCS to an action-plan to campaign for a boycott.

 Notes

Disabled People Against Cuts Cymru (DPAC Cymru) is an autonomous sister organization to DPAC and Black Triangle, committed to working together with them and with PCS in unity against the Cuts.

The original DPAC – PCS – Black Triangle Joint Statement can be found here: http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/id/9D5169BA-F1FA-40AF-B03E6904B252800B