Monthly Archives: February 2013

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