Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive: Unite Birmingham project execution was monitored by Exec member close to Graham

Union general secretary has made much of ‘investigation’ into hotel and conference centre project, but it was closely watched and reported on by close ally

Sharon Graham

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has made much of her ‘investigations’ into the hotel and conference centre project built by the union in Birmingham, with the union claiming to be unable to disclose details of any wrongdoing but with comments to the heavily-briefed media about ‘serious concerns about potential criminality’.

However, Skwawkbox understands that the project was in fact closely monitored by a close ally of Ms Graham, who was alluded to – but not named – in a statement this week by the contractors, the Flanagan Group, that a Unite member of the Unite executive was heavily involved in the execution of the project. The NEC member in question is said to be feeling the strain amid the fanning of media interest.

Skwawkbox will not yet disclose the name of the NEC member in question, who is prominent in the union’s construction sector. However, the following questions were sent to Unite:

An article appeared in The Liverpool Echo this week about the Birmingham project, within which a quote from The Flanagan Group referenced a member of the Unite Executive Council working on the Birmingham project.

1 Is the Executive Council member [redacted], a prominent member in the Construction sector?

2 Has [redacted] reported to the Executive Council the details of how much he was paid for working on the Birmingham project?

3 If yes to 2 , did the Executive Council approve his remaining an Executive member at the time? If no to 2 why?

4 Is [redacted] running for election to the new Unite Executive Council?

The union did not respond by the provided deadline, but Skwawkbox understands that the executive member has said they will be standing for election and had been expecting Ms Graham’s endorsement, if only behind the scenes. According to the Flanagan group’s statement to the Liverpool Echo, the executive member worked on the project as a ‘project specific convenor’, a role that apparently does not normally exist in the union’s vocabulary.

The news poses questions about why Ms Graham, who was also then on the union’s executive, didn’t raise concerns about the project’s costs at the time.

Update: the union belatedly replied to Skwawkbox’s press enquiry. Again, the union did not respond directly to the questions asked, instead repeating its previous unfounded smears against Skwawkbox, but adding that the exec member was appointed to the project by the union’s previous management, which is true but not relevant to the point of this article, and saying that it had ‘dispensed with’ the services of a number of providers used on the Birmingham project, claiming that this was because of potential criminal issues. This latter comment intensifies the questions about what Sharon Graham knew and when.

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