Analysis comment

Furious Unison NEC/lay members demand investigation into union employees accused in leaked Labour report

Open letter also warns general secretary of Britain’s largest union that Unison’s management must get its own house in order

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis, left, with senior union employees Emilie Oldknow and John Stolliday

Furious elected members of Unison’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and lay members have published an open letter calling on the union’s general secretary Dave Prentis to act following the leak of a Labour report that accuses former Labour staffers of undermining the party’s electoral campaigns and of political interference in disciplinary processes.

Emilie Oldknow and John Stolliday, who ran Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) and feature prominently in the report, now hold senior positions in Unison. Neither appear to have commented publicly on the report’s allegations.

The Unison members’ letter, already signed by more than twenty NEC members and hundreds of other members, states that the Labour report “lays bare the factionalised and coordinated undermining of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership“, criticises “mishandling of complaints to the Party” including complaints relating to “anti-Semitism, sexual harassment and other serious matters” and the “language used to describe women, racism complainants and those with mental health conditions“, which it says “belies insidious sexism, racism and disablism on the part of the identified individuals“, before describing an “unforgiveable” and “orchestrated” “anti-democratic campaign to undermine Labour’s chance of achieving victory in the 2017 General Election“.

The letter calls on Prentis to take immediate steps to arrange the union’s own investigation of the events in the Labour report, to publicly condemn the behaviour the report describes – and to take action against any of the people involved who currently work for the union, “to retain the confidence of our members, who look to the Labour Party to deliver the political change they need“.

It goes on to remind Prentis that Unison has not yet acted against staff found by the government’s Certification Officer to have interfered in Unison’s own general secretary election, that Unison’s own internal culture bears distressing similarities to the factionalism described in the Labour report – and warns him that with another such election due this year, he must make sure the union has its own house in order:

Open letter to Dave Prentis

Dave Prentis
General Secretary
UNISON

CC Gordon McKay (Chair Labour Link Committee)
CC Josie Bird (National President)

Dear Dave

Re: The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, March 2020

We write as concerned members of UNISON’s National Executive Committee and also from within the broader union in response to the above referenced report and associated revelations. As an affiliate organisation of the Labour Party, UNISON must carefully consider the implications of the report, make appropriate demands of the Labour Party and consider any steps to take within our own organisation.

The report lays bare the factionalised and coordinated undermining of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (which we supported in two leadership elections), that resulted in the mishandling of complaints to the Party. These complaints relate to anti-Semitism, sexual harassment and other serious matters. If this were not sufficient cause for concern, the language used to describe women, racism complainants and those with mental health conditions belies insidious sexism, racism and disablism on the part of the identified individuals.

The orchestrated anti-democratic campaign to undermine Labour’s chance of achieving victory in the 2017 General Election is unforgiveable. In the context of our current national crisis, the glimpse of an alternative outcome is cold comfort to our members and communities fighting for survival. The devastation of austerity, which our union has done so much to fight, has been allowed to continue and there have been literally deadly consequences for many of our members.

– UNISON must address these very serious issues with full transparency and democratic oversight by lay leadership.

– UNISON must identify if any individuals employed by UNISON, or those which held Labour Party positions by virtue of their membership of UNISON, in the period of the report were aware of these actions.

– UNISON must address the underlying discriminatory attitudes for any named individuals who hold positions in UNISON, to retain the credibility of and confidence in those individuals.

– The sexist, racist and discriminatory attitudes exposed in the report must be condemned by UNISON.

– UNISON’s Labour Link must demand immediate action by the new Labour leadership to take immediate steps to retain the confidence of our members, who look to the Labour Party to deliver the political change they need.

As National Executive Committee members and concerned members from within the broader union, we note the following:

– That UNISON has taken no internal action since the Certification Officer’s report concluded its own staff had interfered inappropriately and outside of UNISON’s rules in the general secretary election of 2015.

– That the level of hyper-factionalism and paranoia found in the report, where everyone who disagrees with you is a ‘trot’, is one which many recognise to be a similar prevailing culture as that within UNISON

– That if UNISON’s own investigation into this report shows conduct by staff (including at another employer) to be so extreme and prejudicial that UNISON can no longer have faith in the integrity of these staff, it must take appropriate steps to protect the union, its reputation and ability to function

– That many members will be extremely concerned to leave the running of UNISON’s internal governance, disciplinary processes and elections to staff who appear to have played such a destructive role elsewhere in our movement. UNISON members will rightly demand that staff are beyond reproach and will serve the whole of UNISON and not one set of individuals within it

– That with a general secretary election due in 2020, there is an urgent need to address this and then thereafter for root and branch cultural change within UNISON.

We look forward to your response by return.

Unison members who wish to add their name to the letter can do so here.

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14 comments

  1. What percentage of Labour members were found guilty of any AS accusations?

    Did Luciana Berger ever REFUSE to meet with Jeremy Corbyn when he invited her to meet with him?❓ Did Luciana Berger ever take her complaints of AS to the police? What was the outcome❓ How many allegations of Antisemitism did Luciana Berger make❓ What was the LEGAL outcome of each of them❓ How many of the guilty were known to be supporters of JC❓ How many of those Berger allegations and all other allegations were committed by members who joined since Jeremy was elected❓ Why did Blair, Straw, Faulkner, Watson and Iain McNicol not expel them BEFORE Jeremy was ELECTED leader❓❓❓

    Why have we never heard WIDELY and FREQUENTLY any of the above questions asked and the answers provided? Why are we only now getting confirmation of our suspicions now❓ Why are party funds being used to suppress the maligned practises and intent of Starmer’s supporters❓ Why were party funds not used to assist members to pursue justice❓❓❓ WHY IS IT MADE AVAILABLE NOW TO FRUSTRATE JUSTICE❓❓❓🌹🌹🌹

    1. As far as I recall Luciana Berger made two antisemitism complaints to the police which resulted in prosecutions. In both cases the far right wing extremists concerned were jailed.

      1. That is along the lines of my knowledge Smartboy, except i believe Ms Berger made possibly FOUR to SIX complaints. But Ms Berger is free to put us right. You are also more right than wrong. My understanding is that four of the six are from the RIGHT and were convicted. Again Ms Berger should clarify. After all Berger has unhindered access to every MSM studio.

        Ms Berger, do not allow the fact that you FAILED to convince the ELECTORATE of Finchley and Golders Green that you were worthy of their votes. Clarify any of the above. It may have been another neighbouring constituency which REJECTED you. BUT, Were the electorate antisemitic to reject you❓ Do put us right on any of the above.

        Ps Smartboy those convicted were on the RIGHT. Any others had no connection to JC. It is fact that antisemites in the main felt AND FEEL most at home in the TORY PARTY. Have you Ms Berger EVER toured MSM studios expressing distress at that❓❓❓

        It is a FACT which you must know, that Jeremy Corbyn, stands head and shoulders above ALL political leaders in this country as THE DETERMINED defender of ALL minorities. Not just in this country, but from Chile to Palestine, South Africa to Iraq. East to West, North to South, you must know that Jeremy Corbyn is peerless in his support for Jews of faith and none. Were you ignorant of these facts, you may have an excuse. But no person could be that ignorant. However, do please put me right if I got that wrong.🌹🌹🌹

      2. UPDATE: Smartboy, Re Luciana Berger: She claimed to have received OVER TWO THOUSAND antisemitic messages within a few hours in ONE day. Did Berger show those AS messages to the police❓ Of ALL her allegations, there were SIX convictions. FOUR were from the RIGHT. Why did Luciana Berger fail to campaign against the Right❓

        REPEAT – of SIX convictions, FOUR were from the RIGHT. ONE was an EX Labour member. The other could have been any random member of the population. QUESTION: Why did Ms Luciana Berger not smear the Tories with that proportion of convictions in mind❓
        QUESTION: Was the EX Labour member from the WMD Blair, Straw, Blunket, Failkner, period❓ Why did they not deal with AS❓ Many more UNANSWERED questions remain.

        OVER TWO THOUSAND Antisemitic messages in a few hours in one day, Berger claimed. SIX convictions. FOUR … repeat FOUR on the RIGHT.
        ONE an EX Labour member. The other ONE not known to be connected with Labour. If the portrayals of concern were honest… genuine … based on sound EVIDENCE, then the last four years would have been DOMINATED by those determined to make True Labour lose the election, doing their duty, to win it. They would be STILL trying to stamp out antisemitism in the TORY PARTY.

        Further, the MSM four year campaign of destruction would have been towards McNicol, WMD Blair and Straw. MOREOVER, that VICIOUS campaign to stamp out antisemitism would be continuing this very day against the Tories INCLUDING WMD Tony Blair & Jack Straw who had a Holocaust survivor WALTER WOLFGANG RIP, brutally manhandled and bundled out of the Labour Party conference. And, as if that were not enough TONY BLAIR hissed at the Holocaust survivor that he was lucky to live here or get off so lightly or something equally VILE ••• WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE❓❓❓

  2. Flogging a dead horse, trying to get prentis to be of any use, whether it be as an act of contrition, or him doing his duty.

    Why prentis’ unison are affiliated members I will never know.

    1. Toffee, Some of the most destructive in my CLP are union people. Some of the most damp are union people. In fact one of them spoke AGAINST Open Selection at my branch meeting. I was stunned. Need to dig out his identity. Seem to remember him being from Unison. May be wrong. Packed meeting. Yet he was unashamed to display his treachery towards the members. Which reminds me. Someone told me immediately after the meeting that they agreed with us who spoke in defence of Open Selection. But get this… figure this one out. They attended the meeting but ABSTAINED… because they “wanted to remain neutral”. Yes. In a meeting of huge consequence. With a confidential vote, an attendee abstained … to be neutral. Just shows the importance of asking questions and expressing your views boldly. The default setting for some is FOG…. bewildering FOGGING FOG.

      On recalling that memory, it is a puzzle why anyone could remain hopeful… yet, i am. Whats the alternative???… None. We must and can win this fight
      POSITIVE. 🌹🌹🌹

    2. PLP motto………..we have to pretend to get behind Jeremy Corbyn before we can stab him in the Back”………..Ms Phillips begs to differ.

  3. What role exactly do Emily Oldknow and others who feature in the report play in Unison? I for one cannot see how others would have any confidence in her after this report. She sounds like she’d stab you in the back as soon as look at you. How can she retain her, no doubt highly paid job? Looks like union jobs are grace and favour appointments for Stalmer’s labour elite.

    1. Emilie Oldknow’s comments were mostly infantile, spiteful and vicious and some were foul mouthed.She has shown herself unfit to hold a senior paid position in any trade union. Unison members need to kick her out. She is a disgrace.

  4. Its gong to have to be a comprehensive move by informed Unison members if this is gong anywhere. Prentices’s reputation suggests he’ll be sharing the same gun as KS

  5. SLightly off topic but I have just received a email from Sir Kier and Angela requesting my attendance tomorrow night for a chat about it all starting at 7.15 pm , no doubt many of you have also had this.
    STRANGE THO isn’t it that at 9.30am this morning I had already had an email from John McD doing the same thing exactly on the 14th but at 7.30pm start .

    It looks like the RW establishment brigade are really rattled AND BLOODY WELL THEY SHOULD BE !

    I know which one I’ll be listening to , in fact just for a laugh I’ll listen to the first 15mins of Sir Kier and Angela ( oh how you have sunk Angie ! ) and then go and get some truth and sense from John’s session.

  6. Ahh would that be the Unison Union that took the decision at Exec level to support Sir Kier Starmer , with out even bothering to consult their membership ,, yes that Union .
    Don’t hold your breath for any action .

    Step in now Len and fire a few shots , now’s your chance pal

  7. While we’re all focusing on Labour’s travails there’s more government controversy over Covid-19.

    There’s an article over on openDemocracy exposing the fact that Andrew Gilligan – that’s right the journalist and now a government transport adviser – is “negotiating with private sector pathology laboratories on behalf of the government.”

    Talk about cronyism, what on earth does Gilligan know about medical science?!

  8. Thank you all for providing truthful information?understanding. I visit every day to up to speed.

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