‘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
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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