Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive: Unite binned racism complaints against senior Graham ally despite agreeing post was racist

‘It wasn’t up for very long’ sums up union’s response to branches complaining about anti-Irish and anti-Scot post on social media

NEC member Tony Seaman with Sharon Graham

Unite knocked back the complaints of a number of the union’s branches about a racist post by a close ally of general secretary Sharon Graham earlier this year – despite agreeing that the comment was racist.

When the Irish national football team played Scotland in June this year, Tony Seaman – said to be close to Ms Graham and who was also Unite’s ‘project-specific convenor’ on the union’s Birmingham hotel and conference centre project – posted calling the Irish ‘tattie pickers’ and referring to Scotland as the ‘England B team’:

Scots would take deep exception to a comment treating them as merely an inferior adjunct of England – but Irish people consider the reference to ‘tattie’ – potato – pickers as a reference to the Great Potato Famine or Great Hunger that caused the deaths of around a million men, women and children in their country.

But the union’s response to complaints from several branches was dismissive, informing them that while they agreed it was a racist comment the post had not been up very long and Mr Seaman had expressed regret – so the matter was considered closed:

Skwawkbox asked Unite:

During the summer, a number of branches complained to Unite about a racist comment in which Tony Seaman, a known ally and supporter of Sharon Graham, referred to Irish people as ‘Tattie Pickers’. The union responded agreeing that the post was racist, yet stated that it was taking no action because the post wasn’t up for long and Mr Seaman regretted causing offence – and that the matter was therefore closed.

This seems an astonishing disregard for what the union agreed was racism, as well as for Unite’s many Irish members both in Ireland and in the UK. Please advise:

  • why did the union dismiss racism complaints despite agreeing there was racism?
  • what message does the union’s action send to members in Ireland and to ethnic minority members?
  • will Sharon Graham publicly condemn the racist comment?

Please provide specific responses to each question.

Despite the request for specific, relevant answers, Unite instead repeated its tactic of responding with a series of smears against Skwawkbox and its journalism that this site has been advised not to publish as they are defamatory, but which do not constitute denials – despite repeated requests – or even direct responses to the questions asked.

Skwawkbox contacted Mr Seaman to ask him to comment. He answered, with no comment on the issue but both demanding to know where Skwawkbox obtained his number – he had included it in an email to the union press office which he copied to this site – and that no further contact be made.

Skwawkbox has recently revealed a series of allegations about interference in disciplinary processes in Unite, none of which were denied by the union – including alleged attempts by the union’s now-general secretary to have recordings and transcripts destroyed that complainants said showed her husband bullying and abusing both female and male colleagues. Jack Clarke was also alleged to have threatened staff. The union also did not deny that Mr Clarke’s promotion to a senior position in Ms Graham’s office – despite the bullying complaints – broke the union’s normal procedures requiring such appointments to be approved by Unite’s national executive, despite it taking place in a month in which the executive meets.

The dismissal of racism raises further questions about the union’s processes when it comes to those close to Sharon Graham, alongside those relating to its treatment of Irish union legend Brendan Ogle, who had just returned from successful cancer treatment and had not supported Ms Graham’s bid to lead the union, earlier this year.

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    1. Incisive thought JoeR – but before Power corrupts, it encourages weak and bad people to show their true selves. Tony Seaman’s xenophobia alone suggests he’s not exactly a strong, good person….

  1. If only Skwawkbox has been more savy and stopped bad mouthing Steve Turner when he was running for Unite General Secretary.
    Nothing against Beckett but despite his support from the Community Branches the big industrial branches weren’t voting for him and not matter how much Skwawkbox was supporting him, he wasn’t going to win the position of Unite General Secretary.
    Straight away Beckett was demoted from his position of Deputy as soon as Graham won the position and it would appear that Graham will do whatever necessary to ensure Beckett isn’t able to stand for the position at the next contest. Had Turner been elected General Secretary, I bet Beckett would have kept his position as Deputy.
    Still better Graham than Coyne. It could have been much worse.

  2. “It wasn’t up for long”

    Jesus wept. That makes de piffle a fucking saint – because it only took him less than that to call black people picaninnies and Muslim women who wear a hijab letterboxes

    So you’d best remove all reference to what the gobshite tweeted, skwawky – because those gobshites at unite will accuse YOU of racism for leaving the slur/trope up for longer than that gobshite left his tweet up.

  3. Check ✔mate all positions infiltrated and covered…..The Opposition are no longer there and the working class are now officially invisible.But the storys not yet over and the monster created by Thatcher and Bliar will eventually devour its offspring.ITs time to choose sides and all the money,titles and pomp do not make a working class movement or a union but the exact opposite of democracy…..establishment.!and tyranny.

    1. Interesting comment…Chris Mooney,and times moved on from the famines ,caused by the potato blight and used by the British empire to eradicate a troublesome nation who never seemed to give up the fight against British rule.Fear of the irish as a unknown foreigner maybe could apply today but the comments from a retarded personality cannot be anything other than old time racism from another century were Irish hatred and loathing was celebrated by the government of the time and given as “by the famines minister Lord Trevelyn as Gods judgment “.upon the Irish Catholic..” .That was hatred and loathing on a grand scale and eventually led to the population of Ireland in the 1800s falling from eight and a half million to three point.five million human beings
      . Many starved to death in the million and even more filling the coffin ships to America and the new world.and of course anywhere to survive including Lancashire and Liverpool.were many settled down amongst a relatively friendly Catholic English population who themselves knew about hatred of the foreign religion Catholicism and suffered for it.No other modern nation in Europe has ever been decimated in such a way that today despite massive immigration into Ireland the country has still not attained the population of the pre famines. Squawkbox are entirely correct to highlight casual racism dished out has a joke or okay especially if you study the relationship between racism and xenophobia and the Houlacast be it in Ireland or Nazi Germany we must never forget.

  4. As for the alleged inability of an incoming Labour government to spend money, that is a lie.
    Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey has repeatedly been allowed to make spending pledges in respect of the military. Those commitments should be rescinded.

    1. The excuse that “It cannot be done on day one” (to pay PS workers a decent salary) is merely different wording of the Tory (and LibDem) version “Now is not the time.” There never is a “right time” in these peoples’ world, there never is a “day” when it “can be done” either, because poverty wages “only” affect others, never the elite. Why should someone on £84K to £150K, subsidised meals and alcohol, massive expenses, a gifted second home heated to sauna temperatures no questions asked, employment of relatives on “enhanced wages,” a 30-week year of 3½ days a week, 3½ day weekend, and the likely chance of a knighthood/title, peerage to continue in politics at £300 a day…… worry about little people on wages the elite wouldn’t get out of bed for? We are little people, they are the rulers of the universe. Our lives are totally irrelevant to them.

    1. The country and its people deserve better than a starmer led labour government and I wish I was wrong Steve H and the loathing and betrayal was not true.The sooner Labour get out of the way the better for everyone .We desperately need real change “and a second rate tory tribute act is not the answer.
      Happy new year in your Caribbean bolt hole know that you realise soon you are pushing a disastrous neo liberal nightmare before more vulnerable people are punished and children are starved…..Thanks to Steve walker and squawkbox for digging up the truth instead of the usual fake news and lies from the m.s.m.

      1. Joseph “We desperately need real change”

        Really, a change to what?
        Come back and tell me all about it when you can offer the electorate a credible alternative, when you actually have something more substantial to offer than empty rhetoric.

      2. Policies which, apart from the packaging, are in all practical effect little different from those which are taking us over the precipice does not, never will, and never can be realistically viewed as a ‘credible alternative.’

        The individual who should be answering your question steveH is yourself. Come on. Tell us how, in practical terms, your fabled emperor with no clothes offers any kind of alternative?

        You can’t. All you will do is offer your usual desperate one trick pony pathetic bullshit reframing, projection, or point blank refusal to engage.

        Hanging your hat on data from polls in an information sphere totally controlled by proven liars and frauds will only result in you looking even more out of touch with reality than you have already proved yourself to be.

      3. Dave – Oh dear yet more empty rhetoric. 🥱
        It is undeniable that the polls were remarkably accurate in predicting the national vote share for the 19GE, please feel free to check it out for yourself.
        Whether you like it or not Labour have a substantial and consistent lead in the polls whereas the parliamentary candidates put forward by ‘the left’ consistently lose their deposits whilst their ‘parties’ appear in the ‘others section’ of the polls. I’ve no doubt that you are very dedicated to your cause (whatever that is) but the sad fact is that time and time again the polls (including the ones that count) clearly show that you and your comrades are only a very small minority of the electorate who are failing to gain traction.
        Which of Labour’s current policies do you think are Tory policies and why?
        Here’s a fairly comprehensive list to get you started.

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