Analysis Breaking News

Cortes and TSSA under fire after using injunction to silence sexual harassment complainant

Union and its general secretary deny allegations but provoked anger by using courts and confidentiality agreement against accusations published under the #MeTU hashtag

Manuel Cortes (image by R Wendland via WikiCommons)

The TSSA union has been criticised for going to the courts to silence Claire Laycock, a former employee who has published a video accusing general secretary Manuel Cortes of sexual harassment and the union of using its performance management processes and a confidentiality agreement to try to prevent her pursuing her allegations. Both Cortes and the union have strenuously denied the allegations and Cortes has apologised for any hurt caused by his behaviour. A union spokesperson confirmed to Skwawkbox that Cortes had not denied the allegations during a union meeting with Laycock following her initial complaint to TSSA. Laycock says in her video that Cortes had said he could not remember the events but did not deny them.

Ms Laycock made a number of allegations about Cortes’s conduct toward her, including that he asked her to kiss him at a Christmas party and asked her to go outside with him. Another union employee was also accused in the YouTube video, published by Reel News. The union has sent a legal letter and a press spokesperson raised the possibility of legal action when Skwawkbox began its enquiries last week, while simultaneously thanking this site for doing ‘proper journalism’ around the issue.

When the video remained online, TSSA went to court to obtain an interim injunction against Claire Laycock preventing her from repeating her allegations, but a statement given to Skwawkbox by the union seemed to suggest that the grounds for the legal move – to enforce a confidentiality agreement signed by Laycock – was the damage to the union’s reputation of suggestions that it had covered up the incidents, rather than the specific substance of the harassment allegations themselves:

TSSA has not, does not and will not seek to silence wrongdoing. 

Upon leaving employment with TSSA, Ms Laycock signed an ACAS negotiated agreement which ensured that she was always fully entitled to make valid disclosures of all and any information. 

What it did not permit, was for her to repeat allegations which were always strenuously denied, and after a thorough investigation were not upheld. Following further consideration on appeal in the union that position was confirmed. 

The obligations in the ACAS negotiated agreement were mutual – ie applying to both TSSA and Ms Laycock – and TSSA has tried to respect that. 

ACAS negotiated agreements when there is a dispute are an important and valid tool for workers and employers to use. It is important they are respected.  TSSA is utterly opposed to sexism and harassment in all its forms.

The union’s initial statement, shown in the video, describing Laycock as a ‘disgruntled former employee’ and its decision to use legal means triggered considerable criticism and expressions of support for Laycock from leading figures in the union movement, including the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU):

John Page, a former assistant general sec, posted Laycock’s video on Facebook along with a substantial statement that he was ‘legally prohibited’ from commenting publicly on the specifics of the video but had been raising issues about the union’s handling of harassment allegations as long ago as 2015:

Wayne Geoghegan, a former TSSA general secretary election candidate, posted to Facebook implying that allegations around sexual harassment in the union are longstanding:

Skwawkbox contacted TSSA about these public comments. The union responded:

TSSA’s Executive Committee has commissioned an independent report by academics to look at whether our policies, practices and culture provide a safe space for all our members and staff who are covered by protected characteristics. This is being carried out by an independent third party. Information collected will be confidential and anonymous. We believe this report will be the most comprehensive to date by any union as we aim to ensure we promote equality and inclusion at all levels within our union. The report is due to be finalised this summer and TSSA will act on recommendations should any be forthcoming, as already agreed by our Executive Committee. 

A further application against both Laycock and Reel News is due to be decided by a court today.

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20 comments

  1. TSSA’s Executive Committee has commissioned an independent report by academics to look at whether our policies, practices and culture provide a safe space for all our members and staff who are covered by protected characteristics. This is being carried out by an independent third party. Information collected will be confidential and anonymous.

    I hope it’s not the same independent third party as responsible for the labour data breach 😗🎵.

    1. CONGRATULATIONS 🎉🎉🎉
      Claire Laycock and news outlet Reel News, for taking a stand and FIGHTING for truth

      Once again, PROOF that FAILING to take action when we must, = we are NOTHING but enablers of the status quo. The status quo could never have as easy a ride as they enjoy, if we pursued them.

      Think of it. Starmer (SIR Keith) blathers on about “integrity” etc on and on. But we all see the facts. He is nothing of the sort. His actions prove that. He was elected on a pack of lies. His failure to oppose the most outrageous Covid-19 corruption, while going on about Blue parties DESPITE him FLOUTING clear rules, is enough proof that STARMER is a blatant DECEIVER. Starmer’s words are cheap & shameless. That’s why he was made DPP, to do anything to anyone, without a tinge of guilt⚠️

      And, in any case, the quantity of wind about qualities, eg honesty, are ALWAYS inversely proportional to the qualities blathered about.

      Would you forge a friendship with person who goes on about how honest they are, how full of integrity they are, and other such cheap exhausts❓❓❓

      NO❕❕❕ You would immediately feel that the weirdo is trying to rip you off. NOTE WELL the Blair creature said it was a “STRAIGHT KIND OF” creature.
      Theresa May went on about being the daughter of a vicar and running through some farmer’s “wheat fields”⚠️

      “Son of; a bus driver / tool maker / the manse …” ALWAYS , if the characters were trustworthy or noble in anyway, NO ONE would need tell us. We would already KNOW of their actions⚠️

      Well done also to Luft Rahman and 🅰️SPIRE
      🌟‼️🎉 🌟‼️🎉 🌟‼️🎉

      1. “Confidentiality clauses” = GAGGING = A PERVERSION OF JUSTICE which should have NO PLACE in any decent society, especially a society which criticises justice regimes abroad.
        ‼️💈‼️💈‼️💈

      2. Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne suspend from Palace of Parasites for two days and salary lost for BULLYING.
        🟦⚠️🟦⚠️🟦⚠️

  2. After a life time spent in Trade Union activity ( I was a lay activist, not a fulltime official) I would like to say Skwawkbox’s article surprises me but unfortunately it does not
    Sexual harassment is in most cases ( but not all) an abuse of power – a person in a senior position targeting a person in a junior position .I think the power element is very important to the harasser- it boosts their ego.
    Generally speaking most harassers are male and Trade Unions are male dominated institutions. While we have come a long way from the men discussing the issues while the women make the tea, women have still not achieved equality within the movement.( Frances O’Grady and a few others being the exceptions). This inequality creates a culture which enables harassers
    Also because employers like TSSA are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees they almost always defend the harasser which of course encourages others to do the same – they know they will get away with it.
    What has happened in TSSA shames the movement which preaches equality but which unfortunately still has more than its fair share of knuckle draggers.

    1. LIAM BYRNE SUSPENDED from Palace of Parasites for TWO days + loss of salary.

      Reason cited: BULLYING
      🔶❌🔹🔶❌🔹🔶❌🔹

      1. Thanks signpost not windchimes…ITs nice to be kept informed thats the main point of this site and steve walker can’t find all of the muck inside the labour party….its nice to see were the members hard earned money is squandered.

  3. In other news:-
    Matilda Wagner, Head of UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has stated that there is credible evidence that Russian PoWs have been subject to torture, ill-treatment and being put in solitary confinement by Ukrainian troops. She has described it as “inhumane treatment”. She adds that there is evidence of PoWs being compelled to make statements apologising and to make “confessions”. She states that this is against international law. She states that the Ukrainian forces continue to publish videos of inhumane treatment of prisoners. She adds that similar allegations have been made about Russian troops and has said that this must be investigated.
    For my part, I have seen some of the videos made by the Ukrainians. I have tried searches for videos by the Russians but haven’t found any yet. Has Google blocked them? If so, why?

    1. ……. and, at 92 years of age, Jack Matlock has more knowledge and more sense than all our current “leaders”.

      1. Unforeseen consequences
        You can kiss Trident goodbye
        Who is going to vote for the end of life on this planet

    2. Thanks golbach its through people like you that flag up the hidden real news that people on here and furthur afield are kept informed….Even steve h and his persistent propoganda have there uses and stops us singing from the same hymn sheet whilst having a good laugh at the arrogance of his lack of “self awarness mixed up with distraction politics.

      1. Well said Joseph Okeefe. The truth is out there, but becoming harder to find as the media gets increasingly censored each day.

  4. Manual cortes…needs to cut back on the bullying if it is proven because we need the unions now more than ever and seeing members money squandered on lawyers sends all the wrong messages to the members about their hard earned money paid to the unions for the benefit of the members..

    1. 🌟🎊🌟🎊🌟🎊
      WELL DONE too to DAVID BAKER, Liam Byrne’s assistant. Byrne was found GUILTY of BULLYING David and will be suspended for two days from Palace of Parasites, lose his salary and not be able to enjoy SUBSIDISED BOOZE and fine food in any of the at least EIGHT drinking holes and restaurants FUNDED by US‼️‼️‼️

      David, instead of keeping his head down and whining to those who already know and him, WAIVED ANONYMITY and took ACTION. David alerted the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), and GOT some JUSTICE. Proof again that ACTION is useful. Whining and victimhood achieves ZERO.

      David, a Labour party member, runs Baby Aid Birmingham FOOD BANK. Byrne used David with SHORT-TERM contracts. Consecutive short-term contracts. No surprise then that Liam Byrne was the one who thought it funny to leave a note for his incoming Blue Tory chums – “THERE’s NO MONEY LEFT”. That was when Gordon Brown, enabler of Mandelson and War Criminal Blair LOST the election. No surprise. Blair left a husk. Scotland decimated and Labour sunk in the STENCH of Blair’s IRAQ. Mandelson’s tool Starmer showers the deadly creature with love.
      🥀🩸💥🥀🩸💥🥀🩸💥

  5. Why is it unions \mps \councils are unable to think of solutions to problems without running to lawyers or consulting experts(so called)to prepare a “opinion” or a needless report.Too much money wasted on using professional opinions to either cover their backsides or kick somthing into the long grass to disappear and apear somtimes years later when its irrelevant..
    We vote for somone who then abdicates responsibility by “reports”or consultants..lawyers..expert opinions?.I am truly sick and tired of “professionals”who decide the fate of everything now including digitalised identity soon to make us subservient to a computer. …and the new world order that nobody voted for
    .This is the “modern world” and I had to get off…and the fact I am commenting here on the internet shows that I have already defeated my argument.Good morning and its Friday 13th comrades the day I will never forget.

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