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Breaking: Unison president Paul Holmes dismissed by Kirklees Council – now it goes legal

Supporters accuse Labour and Unison right of collusion and stitch-up – union had banned branches from supporting Holmes despite collapse of Unison’s own suspension

Left-wing Unison president Paul Holmes has this morning been dismissed from his job with Kirklees Council, despite a ’48-year unblemished record’. Holmes’s suspension was dragged on needlessly by the Labour-run council for eighteen months after the conclusion of a private consultant’s investigation into unspecified charges.

Holmes was unable to comment this morning except to say that the matter will now become a legal one, but his supporters have long accused the council and the Unison right of colluding to remove Holmes as the union’s president – and Unison has banned its branches from supporting him, as well as offering no support and allegedly obstructing his defence, despite the collapse of its own suspension of the veteran union man.

Unison’s management has been accused of conducting a campaign of non-cooperation and obstruction since the left achieved a democratic majority on the union’s executive, including the president’s and both vice-presidents’ positions, leading the country’s leading labour lawyer to conclude that they were liable to summary dismissal for gross misconduct.

Update: Nigel Pearce has released a statement on behalf of Holmes:

Statement made by Nigel Pearce on behalf of Paul Holmes at the conclusion of Paul Holmes’s disciplinary case on February 2, 2022

Paul Holmes is the National President of UNISON (the largest trade union in the UK with 1.3 million members). He has been Branch Secretary of the Kirklees UNISON branch for 32 years. 

Paul has been a council employee for 48 years and a Union steward for 46 years. He has a completely unblemished record in his 48 years with the council. The decision to dismiss him is completely indefensible. It follows him being suspended by the council for 2 years and 2 months.

The investigation into this issue by a private consultant finished 18 months ago.

Paul will not let this issue rest. He could have retired with 48 years’ service, but he is determined to clear his name and let everyone know the real reasons behind his dismissal. The whole trade union movement needs to show solidarity with Paul: he is a member of the TUC General Council and National President of the UK’s largest trade union.

We have nothing to else to say at present, but we will be making a more detailed statement in the next few days.

Skwawkbox view:

Unison is the UK’s biggest union but dominated by the right for years and the right is determined to maintain its control whatever the wishes of the union’s membership. The idea that a union would not only fail to campaign for, but also ban support for, its own president when targeted by an employer ought to be unthinkable. That it is not is a scandal – and sends a horrifying message to Unison members and to exploitative, bullying employers.

Solidarity with Paul Holmes.

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  1. Unbelievable. I hope now we will hear what these allegations are and Holmes lawyers are flexing their muscles. I’m surprised he still hasn’t disclosed what the, no doubt baseless, allegations are. I hope he is not going to sign an NDA in return for a juicy settlement and enhanced/pension redundancy rights.

    1. If he does sign a c̶o̶m̶p̶r̶o̶m̶i̶s̶e̶ ̶a̶g̶r̶e̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶,̶ ̶s̶e̶t̶t̶l̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶a̶g̶r̶e̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶, NDA, he should quickly bust it, go public, get legal advice from QC Hugh Tomlinson and drag them through the courts.

      1. My point at 4.45 this afternoon (2/2) the Panorama programme the greatest political stitch up since the Zioviev letter?
        Be careful re leaks – the leakers usually have motives?

    2. PC – Following the receipt of a leaked dossier into the case, the LDRS can report that Mr Holmes has faced complaints of:
      ▪ Bullying, threatening and intimidating behaviour towards colleagues.
      ▪ That he made repeated and unreasonable work demands on colleagues, behaving in a controlling and coercive manner.
      ▪ That he made sarcastic and demeaning comments towards colleagues, including constant and unjustifiable criticism.

      1. Reply to Steve H
        Even if all the allegations you list are true, sacking a man after 48 years unblemished service is a disproportionate response from Kirklees. Dismissal is a last resort not the first port of call for any reasonable employer. A proportionate response would have been – if these allegations are well founded – a written warning or even maybe a final written warning, compulsory dignity at work training etc.
        The question any Tribunal will consider is “was the action that which any reasonable employer would take”. In this case it is clear that the answer is NO Therefore Paul has at least 2 grounds to make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal – unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of Trade Union activity. Although he will have to go through Kirklees internal appeals process he should lodge Tribunal proceedings NOW as Tribunal complaints are time limited and the clock starts ticking once the act takes place ( NOT when the appeal decision is made).
        Unison will also have to provide Paul with free legal advice under its rules and its NEC will probably have to authorise free legal assistance so he shouldn’t have any problems getting proper representation. If there is a problem he can always crowd fund his legal costs.
        I have no doubt whatsoever that Paul will win his case(s) and the appalling way Kirklees has behaved will be taken into account by the Tribunal when awarding damages which in the circumstances will be substantial.
        Solidarity with Paul.

      2. Smatboy – Neither of us have seen the evidence against him from the 14 complainants so neither of us in a position to pass judgement on the veracity of the complaints against Holmes or whether Kirklees were justified in sacking him.

      3. The entire Western world awaits with bated breath for Mr Heep to reveal one way or the other hether or not recognised due process principles, standards and processes were carried out using testable objective evidence in this case?

        Seeing as we are dealing with an individual who only ever demands others answers their questions and refuses point blank to answer anyone else’s legitimate questions hopes are in negative numbers territory that such information will be forthcoming from this sycophantic partisan source.

      4. Dave – Like you I have no idea whether the proper procedures were followed or not and like you I haven’t seen the evidence presented by either his 14 alleged victims or Paul Holmes so like you I am not in a position to reach an informed judgement on either the veracity of the complaints or whether Paul’s dismissal was justified.
        This will be for a tribunal to decide on the basis of all evidence. Unlike you I am not pre-judging the outcome

      5. Steve H
        I am only going by what you say and what has previously been said – a 2 year investigation, a previously clear record etc. In my opinion ( based on my Trade Union experience) sacking a member of staff with 48 years unblemished service for first a disciplinary “offence” or “offences” will be judged unreasonable in the circumstances and Paul will win a Tribunal case.
        Unfortunately the type of behaviour you have listed is common in the workplace- many people need training in how to manage/ work with others and that is what usually happens along with a disciplinary penalty if there are multiple complaints. What happened here is clearly a stitch up- no warnings , no training, no demotion, no probationary period just straight to the sack. If I can see this a Tribunal will be able to see it too.

      6. The fact that he has dismissed and has to take a case to a tribunal would suggest question marks in regards the process employed by the local council. On the basis of what you supplied so far the pre- judgement seems to have already occurred.

        Poor attempt at projection there. Seems you are overdue your annual CBT package.

      7. Wonder if people remember the Panorama programme on Labour and AS when the brilliant Jewish Dissident later identified about 7 or 8 of the complainants featured as JLM officers or ex-officers, perhaps the greatest political stitch up since the fake Zioviev letter was leaked to the media before an election.
        Best to wait for the actual evidence.

      8. I had similar; bullying, intimidation and sexual misconduct. All fabricated and overturned. Truth was the victor. It will be here too. Stay committed to it, there’s a love xxx

    3. On Tue 08/03/22 Paul Holmes’ application for ‘Interim Relief’ was rejected by the court.

  2. What a bloody cruel world we have created were people are treated with contempt and their lives ruined.This is a travesty of justice whichever way you look.

    1. Wirral, the article above talks about 48 years of unblemished record. Hence, it’s possible that Paul is already 66 years old. Thus, they cannot take his pension from him.
      More importantly, an unblemished record of 48 years will something that an Employment Tribunal will take into account. Hence, strong likelihood that Paul will win his case against Kirkless Council.
      It would be interesting to see if Unison is willing to pay for Paul’s defence and hire a top lawyer and barrister or refuses to assist him.

      1. Point taken Maria. Thanks! Lower ranked members tend to be dropped like a stone when legal funds are needed and lawyers turn up with their meters running ⏰

      2. Reply to Maria V
        You are assuming Maria that Paul is already in receipt of his pension. He may not be ( there is no longer a default retirement age in most occupations) and if he isn’t then I think Wirral is probably right- he would lose the employer funded portion of his pension.

  3. Scandalous behaviour on the part of Kirklees Council. Where does that leave Paul in his President of Unison? Will the right try and force him out of this position too?

    1. Reply to Back of Beyond
      In order to hold any elected office the person must be a union member. Technically Paul’s union membership ceased when his employment ended and I’d bet my last penny that that Unison staff will use this to try to keep him out of the Presidency and any other elected positions.
      However the NEC can probably override any decision to deem Paul an ex- member and thereby enable him to retain the Union presidency etc. I say probably because I haven’t seen the Unison Rule book but I know that the rules of most Unions are based on model TUC rules and allow NECs virtually unlimited discretion in the interpretation and application of the rules regarding membership.

    2. Wonder if this was a co-ordinated Right Wing leak with Right wing Labour & Union members encouraged to get it out there outlining the claims to undermine we know who.
      Breaking: large dog whistle coming out Righties get it out there! (?) Hmm
      Best of luck Paul.

  4. If you’re reading this Mr Holmes and you need free advice from someone who has beaten bogus gross misconduct charges by two different councils, my door is always open. Thanks! 😊

  5. The councils resolve should be tested at Tribunal and Holmes should enjoy the legal support his TU offers all members when dismissed for alleged misconduct. Bring it on!

  6. I am looking forward to Christina Macafea’s testimony at the tribunal …

  7. What jumps out from this article and the below the line comments is the explicit and implicit recourse to some very sound principles and standards.

    Principles and standards which include due process, innocent until proven guilty, right to a defence, and the use and testing of objective based evidence before a sanction is imposed.

    Whilst it is not made explicit it is implicit in all of the observations and arguments that imposing a sanction – whether it is loss of job/livelihood/position/membership – cannot be allowed to stand on the basis of a subjective based allegation being sufficient on its own to activate any kind of punishment.

    Because a lie can be twice around the world before the truth has got its boots on and in that way lies the rule of the mob; the rule of those who have the most Twitter followers/deepest wallets/ etc.

    And the key point here is that these are generic principles applicable in ALL cases and instances.

    NOT principles and standards to be used selectively as and when convenient or otherwise depending on the subject matter or issue.

    Point being that when it comes to these general principles and standards consistent application is what sifts out the genuine from the charlatan.

    Paul Holmes is not alone in losing their job, livelihood, positions and reputations on the basis of such misuse uneven power and misapplication of these principles for the sake of convenience.

    There are many others who are victims of the same selective and convenient misuse and non-application of these principles and standards.

    If banners are going to be raised on that terrain there is a need not only for consistency but also to be seen to be consistent.

    At least fifty one per cent of the populace are awake to this objective reality.

  8. Tragic from our perspective but from the Right’s it’s just business as usual as they crush dissent using procedural methods and the dark arts?
    Yes they use their dominance in Right wing Labour and some Right Wing Labour Councils plus in Unison’s bureaucracy plus with their Right wing GS and Deputy GS (please note these latter two were elected because the sectarian Left stood against PH and thus split the Left vote, letting them in, so perhaps a warning here if we get a new Left Wing Democratic Socialist Party concerning the PAL?).
    So the Right Act from positions of strength but perhaps they have two potential weakness?
    Firstly they have to continuously keep up the procedural attacks and dark arts which risks exposure (which hopefully the PH case will do)?
    And secondly I would argue they are devoid of IDEAS and the Left can easily crush them on these!
    And it’s becoming like a repeated scene from an Ibsen play: “Is this what they have done to us?”
    So hopefully PH wins his case and we can win in the longer term by Organising! Organising! Organising!
    And Ideas! Ideas! Ideas!
    Solidarity with Paul, the Left Unison NEC, and to all Genuine Left Wing Democratic Socialists!

    1. In my experience of industrial tribunals they are a lottery, only winners are the lawyers which most employees don’t have
      You are reliant on the beak seeing through the other sides BULLSHIT
      So unless PH does have the best representation he will get toasted
      In meantime where’s the retaliation against the RW in Unison, sacked on the spot for Gross Misconduct

    2. I alwase love the people that jump in and try and scare people into continuing this sharade of the zombie Labour party just because it has the same name and rosette it’s NOT Labour.

      So no I as a socialist will not debase my ideology voting for such. As I have been called a fascist for standing up for my beliefs and not being a appeaser like so many!

      You speak of splitting the left vote get real, it’s the right wing that screwed us over in the last 2 elections and now wants us to forget all that BS and lies and just be good little sheepie for them. No way!!!

      if your voting for this party it’s out of misguided past loyalty not thought objective understanding of reality. PAL far from slitting the left vote should be the only left vote considered if you being honest with yourself there is no other honest choice. Labour certainly isn’t a choice they walked away or kicked us out and now expect us to forgive and forget!

      The real socialist only small parties with no right wing are so wrong they say but offer no concerns about voting for a right wing party that has no socialist polices and they believe that’s the only sensible option… HUH!

      So we must be evil because we think for ourselves and don’t believe comfortable lies, be controlled, gaslighted and every manipulative trick in the right wing play book until we conform? Nope Pal or others will get my support because they share my ideology. I won’t be bullied or fooled into voting for Tory-lite just because of a red rosette, but you have a good day Sir.

  9. Kirklees council and the Unison right colluding to remove Holmes as the union’s president

    This year’s council elections in Kirklees probably needs democratic socialist to stand in opposition to the LabourRight.

    A quick read of the wiki page for Kirklees Council shows that the LabourRight in Kirklees have stitched-up the council’s operational efficiency and democratic integrity (see 2016 ‘New Council’ model, Leadership challenge, ‘Ratesgate’ scandal, Failings in children’s services).

    Dirty politics and the LabourRight are completely inseparable – we must bust them both.

  10. Happily the law doesn’t consider dossiers leaked to newspapers listing the allegations that have been made against an employee as relaible grounds for their dismissal. One might not only immediately question whether the allegations are true but who leaked such a sensitive document and what was their motive for doing so. Imagine that – a council employee for 48 years with no complaint against them & suddenly their employer for whatever reason notices what a rotten egg they are.

    A complaint of Unfair Dismissal does not simply consider the justifiablity of dismissing someone but the fairness & integrity of the process that was used to decide the case. An employee cany therefore be guilty of a breach of conduct but they could still win an Unfair Dismissal complaint if they are able to show that the process followed by their employer was so flawed and/ or unreasonable that it was prejudiced against them. At this stage I woud suggest that Paul Holmes has at the very least a prima facie case for Unfair Dismissal against Kirklees Council .

    God knows what the council tax payers of Kirklees will make of it all as the costs are bound to mount up and what they will make of the motives of the Council’s ruling Labour Party. Not money well spent that for sure

    1. Absolutely spot on about “leaked dossier of complaints” –
      nothing two years – then they suddenly produce a dossier
      which they used to inform a newspaper.

      It absolutely stinks!

      In a court of law this would be grounds for immediate collapse
      of case against plaintiff – with sharp criticism by judge .

      This should surely be the case of the tribunal – reinstatement of
      Paul Holmes plus full pension plus damages.

      1. In a court of law the accusations against Holmes would be a matter of public record.

        Maybe the leak was prompted by some or all of the 14 complainants fearing that their complaints were going to be swept under the carpet and ignored when they heard that Holmes had been reinstated by Unison.

  11. The UNISON bureaucracy doesn’t have a great record in winning at tribunals like this. Everyone should study the case Kelly and Others versus UNISON (2011)

      1. Indeed, the LabourRight are doing their best to turn Kirklees MDC into a West Mids of the North.

        G*d damn them!

      2. Brian – I have absolutely no idea what you found amusing, only you know the answer to that question.

  12. Speaking from hard-won experience, Paul’s best option is to quote these Council directors’ own policies and procedures back at them. Almost invariably, council bigwigs have gone through a collective common sense, common purpose bypass that creates phantom policy breaches inside their dilapidated grey matter. That, mixed in with a burning 🔥 hatred of anybody slightly to the left of Genghis Khan will throw their reasoning power out of kilter. So when Paul gets to the final hearing after his failed appeal before Kirklees councillors, he should:

    1. Arm himself with the internal policies and procedures
    2. Hold them up in front of their puzzled faces
    3. Demand to know where he breached them
    4. Point out where they breached them (this bit takes ages, but it’s gotta be done)
    5. Watch as the charges collapse around them
    6. Depart the building with his head held high
    7. Convene for a celebratory pint with friends and supporters

    1. I do find it disturbing that so many on these pages appear to be making an evidence free assumption that the complaints against him are false. A point of view that appears to be based on nothing more than factional loyalties.

      1. SH –
        But any evidence they have has been contaminated –
        leaking this “evidence” is clearly contempt of Court.

  13. I don’t know if your criticism which appeared immediately after my contribution was aimed at me, SteveH. If it was, please note that I started my contribution with the word ‘If…’, i.e. without assumption, evidence free or not.

  14. Apologies, I gave the wrong reference above. The Commissioner was removed a dozen years ago, and replaced by the Certification Officer for the Rights of Trade Union Members, whose powers the Tories are increasing, obviously not with the intention of helping remove real abuses, but….

    1. Thank you for that Daniel – Ive just googled –
      the role of the Certification Officer and the rights
      of Trade Unionists were updated last June .

      They are very very interesting and make what RW
      Trade Unionist leaders have done (or not done)
      in the last couple of years – mostly unlawful.

  15. To goldbach, Ed’s cousin, not brother.
    To HolbyFanMw, but the £penalties don’t kick in until 1st April this year and would not apply to breaches before then, although I imagine they could be used as evidence for breaches post 1st April, and a finding of a breach would very probably embarrass the union (if it deserves to be embarrassed).

  16. Daniel
    Given that the immediate problem is an
    Employment Tribunal –

    how would the leaking of evidence stand in the
    case of a tribunal? If he was being accused
    in a Court of law the leaking of information would be
    regarded as “contempt of Court” – so does a similar
    principle apply in the case of a tribunal ?

    1. Dear HFW
      I think the contempt of court issue would apply much more powerfully in a criminal court jurisdiction. An Employment Judge might frown at it, but not treat it as critical and binding. And it sounds as if you half-suspected this.

    1. What a mess ..

      Sounds as though the case has been handled
      in a completely incompetent way by both the
      Employers and the Union.

      Possibly Holmes and his supporters did not respond
      in the best possible way – but it was not them who
      instigated the charges.

      1. As Left Wing Democratic Socialists we would naturally rally to PH when it is presented as a Left/Right issue.
        And we would also naturally rally to support union members who say they have experienced bullying even if was claimed it was by a union rep.
        What we are perhaps starved of here is the full information.
        After a lifetime of being a socialist my guide is honesty and you cannot sneak socialism as though the means justify the ends.
        We need to transform WITH not Top Down FOR.
        Agree with the above – what a mess!

    2. Amnonbc -Is this the same Socialist Party who many old Lefties in Labour remember as Militant, who some could suggest were economical with the truth at Labour meetings for years before everyone got fed up with them?

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