Tag Archives: PCS

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.

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.

Recommendations

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.

Advertisements

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.

Recommendations

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.

Accommodation for lunatics at UCU National Congress 2013 in Brighton – an asylum, or individual padded cells?

Dear Fellow Lunatics in UCU

(Apologies if you’re not a lunatic – I may as well email this query to all the Union’s mailinglists, given that it turns out our Union is absolutely riddled with lunatics.)

Does anyone know what the Union’s accommodation arrangements are for lunatics at UCU National Congress in Brighton this May? Will there be arrangements made for us to be securely housed in a Brighton asylum, or will the Union arrange for us to be put in individual padded cells within our own Regional Delegations’ hotels?

Do we need to bring our own straightjackets? Or will they be included in our delegate packs?

I’m just wondering, ‘cos I’ve been elected the National Congress delegate for my branch (I know! I TOLD them I was a lunatic and therefore not fit to hold elected office but they WOULDN’T listen!) and I’ve just been filling in the Delegate Registration Form.

I got a bit unstuck in the section asking whether I needed any special requirements in relation to the hotel… I realised that there are some obvious difficulties that arise.

So I gave a rather lengthy explanation in the little box, which I reproduce below. So I’m just wondering if the Union’s made any special arrangements for where it wants us lunatics (other than a police cell?)

Many thanks,

Loony.

What I wrote in the Delegate Registration Form box thingy:

Please could I be put in the same hotel as the Leeds University delegation, and NOT with the Wales Region delegation.

My comrades in UCU Wales would find it most distressing to have to share a hotel with me: as an unfortunate unavoidable consequence of having a mental health condition, I am an unhinged lunatic prone to physical violence and am a serious fire hazard.

My comrades in UCU Wales therefore had to be complicit in PCS setting the police on me a while back. This no doubt caused them immense distress, and I am therefore keen to avoid putting them in a position, by imposing my presence upon them, of them having to experience the distress of having to set the police on a fellow trade unionist again.

So it would be better all round if I were to not impose my combustible self upon my Wales comrades. (And, more to the point, I would have a better chance of sleeping through the night without having the police set on me).

Fortunately the Leeds lot are somewhat less medieval in their views on mental health, and are quite welcoming toward lunatics.

Or perhaps they’re just equipped with better fire extinguishers.

Or possibly they’re of the view that, however great my risk of physical violence may be as a self-evident consequence of having a mental health condition, they are not (unlike our strong, manly UCU and PCS comrades in Wales) particularly concerned about the physical-violence threat posed by a short, fat, forty-ish woman who has the physique of a person who’s spent a lifetime in academia and whose most strenuous sporting activity is a daily game of sudoku.

Many thanks.

Oh, and, for the same reasons as given above, it would probably also be best to not put me in the same hotel as the General Secretary.

Ta.

Colleagues, the elected leadership structures of our trade union are absolutely RIDDLED with lunatics!!!

Oh. My. God. Colleagues, the elected leadership structures of our trade union are absolutely RIDDLED with lunatics!!!

 

After I emailed the Trade Union Lunatics Association newsletter (https://loonylefty.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/newsletter-of-the-trade-union-lunatics-association-issue-1/) to the UCU Activists List and to every NEC member and rep for whom I have an email address, I received the most extraordinary response. I got the most wonderful, moving replies – some from some of the really terrifying Independent Broad Left people who I thought really hated me! – telling me that they too have mental health conditions, and agreeing that there is a real problem in the trade union movement with regards stigma and discriminatory attitudes toward us.

 

There was also an extraordinary response to the newsletter’s Call for Consultation re lunatics being required to carry leper bells so as to warn Congress delegates not to accidentally elect them to trade union office. Several high profile NEC members who I would never have guessed had mental health conditions have said that they’ll carry a leper bell at National Congress in Brighton and dress entirely in rhubarb. Just goes to show how easy it is to mistake lunatics for normal people – I can’t imagine why no-one never thought of the leper bell initiative before!!

 

One issue for debate appears to be whether lunatics at Congress should also be required to shout “unclean! Unclean!” while ringing their leper bells whenever they go up to the podium to speak. Or alternately “fire hazard! fire hazard!”

 

Perhaps we could ask PCS to advise? They must have a very effective system indeed for purging their union of lunatics, given that the position being put out by PCS delegates at TUC Women’s Conference last week (or possibly only by their SWP contingent, it’s not clear) was that PCS had set the police on me for campaigning against the Welfare reforms because “they’d had no experience of activists with mental health conditions before and they didn’t know what to do. They just panicked.”

 

There has been much discussion on the dark side of the internet and in the bourgeois media recently about the SWP’s outstanding contribution to the field of gender equality. They’ve made quite an outstanding contribution to the field of disability equality in Cardiff too (which I shall blog about soon – I have more time on my hands now that I’m no longer deemed fit to hold trade union office on grounds of having a mental health condition).

 

What is rather odd though, is that while the SWP has no faith in the bourgeois police and the bourgeois justice system with regards people making rape allegations against their senior leadership, they’re strong advocates of setting the bourgeois police on disabled activists who advocate positions democratically-decided-upon by legitimate grassroots disabled-people’s movements when they don’t approve of those positions (the SWP knows what’s best for us and get a bit miffed if we’re too stubborn to listen).

 

The General Secretary and the SWP have much common ground with regards their concern about the dangers of lunatics in trade union office (https://loonylefty.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/ucus-sally-hunt-sides-with-the-trots/). The endless dispute between the GS and the SWP is immensely trying for all those of us caught up in the crossfire of it who simply want to try to progress our members’ interests as best we can. Perhaps the GS and the SWP can unite to fight a greater enemy (lunatics in elected office) and herald a new era of peace and co-operation in the Union from which everyone in UCU (except the lunatics of course) can benefit.

 

I made a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request to the Union recently. And finally learned, for the first time, 5 months after PCS had set the police on me with UCU’s collusion, that I had threatened physical violence against two PCS members and intended to set myself alight outside Wales TUC and PCS HQ Transport House in Cardiff. This came as a considerable surprise to me. I had absolutely no idea I’d done these things.

 

Colleagues, the General Secretary is going to have purple kittens when she learns just how widespread lunacy is in UCU elected office.

 

In the pile of emails I got through the DPA SAR, there’s an email from the Gen Sec that mentions that at a TUC Executive meeting Mark Serwotka mentioned that PCS members were saying that people going to Jobcentres were threatening them with physical violence and threatening to set themselves alight. She writes, “No names but I think [this] may well have been a reference to [Liza]. My issue is whether this has brought the union into disrepute and whether Liza has any responsibility for that?”

 

The answer, had anyone ever bothered to put the question to me, is No. And as it happens, through a quirk of circumstance, I was actually in a position to prove this conclusively. A disabled activist had recorded the entirety of a meeting at which it was alleged I made the threats attributed to me. Er, or rather, attributed to my mental health condition. Er, or rather, attributed to my UCU and PCS trade union comrades’ ignorant discriminatory offensive and utterly ludicrous stereotypes of people with mental health conditions.

 

Dr Liza van Zyl

Lunatic

 

 

 

Newsletter of the Trade Union Lunatics Association issue #1

Colleagues,

1. NOTED: the following proposal to postpone the next meeting of the UCU Commission on Union Democracy to the Rhubarb Season: https://loonylefty.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/a-proposal-to-hold-the-next-meeting-of-ucus-commission-on-trade-union-democracy-to-rhubarb-season/

2. NOTED: We are forming a Facebook group for Lunatics and other disabled people in the trade union movement and wider Left. If you are a lunatic or other disabled person, please join by following the link in the post here: http://grumpyoldtrot.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/disabled-lefties/

3. NOTED: We have still not received a response from Mark Serwotka with regards how PCS would like lunatics to campaign against the Welfare reforms in such a way that PCS feels confident that we do not pose a fire hazard: https://loonylefty.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/a-disabled-persons-plea-to-pcs-general-secretary-mark-serwotka/

4. NOTED: that members of the UCU delegation to the TUC Women’s Conference at Congress House last week did receive an explanation from members of the PCS delegation for the events described in point 3 above, along the lines that PCS set the police on me for campaigning against the Welfare reforms on grounds that “they’d never experienced activism from a person with a mental health condition before and they didn’t know what to do. They just panicked.”

PROPOSED:

4.1. that based on feedback already received from within “disabled people are human beings” extremist groups, this explanation above be officially adopted as the single most hilarious example of disability discrimination yet to have come out of the trade union movement and wider Left;

4.2. a clarification be requested from PCS as to whether the above is the official PCS position on the matters described in point 3 above, or whether this is simply the position of the SWP within PCS.

5. CALL FOR CONSULTATION: given the confusion that can arise when lunatics are accidentally elected to trade union office by bodies such as UCU National Congress and UCU Wales Congress, it has been proposed that a motion be submitted to UCU National Congress 2013 in Brighton that lunatics be required to carry a bell at all times, like medieval lepers used to have to do, so that they are never again accidentally elected to trade union office by unsuspecting delegates. Lunatics are invited to participate in a consultation process with regards the colour, size, musical tone of the bell.

Please circulate this email to all disabled people in the trade union movement or wider Left, and particularly to lunatics and suspected lunatics.

Yours,

Dr Liza van Zyl, convenor

Update: https://loonylefty.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/colleagues-the-elected-leadership-structures-of-our-trade-union-are-absolutely-riddled-with-lunatics/comment-page-1/#comment-45

A proposal to postpone the next meeting of UCU’s Commission on Trade Union Democracy until the Rhubarb Season

Dear Fellow Commissioners,

I’d like to move that we postpone the next meeting of the Commission to when rhubarb is in season. For two reasons.

Firstly because there have been a number of objections from Women Members Standing Committee members to a proposed Commission meeting on the 12th April clashing with the Equality Standing Committee meetings on the 12th April.

Secondly, because it was pointed out by UCU NEC members from Rhubarb Triangle constituencies following the post and picture that I circulated on Facebook earlier, below, that horticultural constraints would make it impossible for them to prepare me the outfit I propose to wear to the next meeting of the Commission:

rhubarb pic

Awesome! WHERE can I find a splendid full-length rhubarb outfit like the one shown here for the next meeting of UCU’s Commission on Trade Union Democracy on 12th April?? In one of life’s great ironies I’m a member of this 10-person body, given that as it turns out trade union democracy does not apply to trade unionists with mental health conditions. (The Union was rather remiss in not informing Congress of this fact when I was elected to the Commission – or perhaps Congress this year should legislate that those of us with mental health conditions should in future at all times carry a warning bell, like medieval lepers had to to?)

As a notorious public lunatic (cheers PCS!), I’m always looking for ways to live up to my rather extraordinary reputation and I feel the rhubarb outfit would make an interesting variation on the theme of lunacy in trade union office.

Who’s up for starting an organisation where we all randomly pose as parts of the landscape in public places, or attend trade union meetings, dressed like this?

The discussion following the Facebook post raises some interesting points which the Commission may wish to add to the Agenda for debate at the next meeting.

Firstly there appears to be an issue of conflicting approach between Union Committees to the to the issue of lunatics elected to membership of Union Committees.

From the number of objections from members of the Women Members Standing Committee that arose in relation to the Facebook post above that implied I would not be attending the scheduled meeting of the WMSC on 12th April, it would appear that some Union Committees are quite adamant that lunatics elected to them be available to fulfil their elected remit and participate in the meetings and work, and that when the dates of Equality Subcommittee meetings have been published in the Union’s Calendar of Constitutional Meetings for months, other bodies of the Union should respect these dates.

For other Union Committees however, notably UCU Wales Council, it does appear to be strongly felt that lunatics should not hold Union office nor be involved in the work of that Committee even if they have been elected to that Committee by the sovereign body governing that Committee, in this case UCU Wales National Congress, see https://loonylefty.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/which-trade-union-is-more-atrocious-at-disability-equality-pcs-or-ucu/ , which does raise some rather interesting Constitutional paradoxes with regards the practical remit of trade union democracy.

These are clearly Constitutional matters and are therefore within the remit of the Commission. And given UCU’s outstanding good practice when it comes to the matter of dealing with lunacy in elected trade union office, it would make sense for the Commission’s work to encompass an investigation of these interesting Constitutional anomalies between committees.

Finally, given that the Commission’s work has focused very strongly on the matters of equality and gender representation in relation to trade union democracy, it may be of interest to the Commission to note that there also appears to be an issue of gender that we may need to consider with regards the issue of lunacy and trade union democracy. The national Women Members’ Standing Committee (perhaps unsurprisingly) has the highest representation of women of all the Union’s Committees, while UCU Wales Council has the lowest (an achievement it holds jointly with the NEC’s Recruitment, Organising and Campaigning Committee).

Whether this apparent marked difference in Union Committees’ approach to lunatics elected to trade union office, on the basis of Committees’ gender representation, is a casual or causal correlation, is a fascinating question. But it cannot be answered on the basis of the data currently available to the Commission.

Solidarity,

Loony Lefty

*picture credit: http://www.sadanduseless.com/2013/03/old-people-wearing-vegetation/

Please sign and share: make our movement safe for women

Thanks for your support.

And can we please make our movement safe for those of us with mental health conditions too: Please repost, reblog, retweet UCU, PCS, SWP & Socialist Party FAIL re disability equality http://wp.me/p37pAD-Z