Analysis Breaking Exclusive

Exclusive: senior Unite officer ‘breaks union rules’ to marshall exec support for Graham

Complaints have gone to Sharon Graham about email sent by Scottish regional secretary Derek Thomson – neither he nor union have responded to request for comment

Unite’s new Scottish regional secretary – until his promotion a senior organiser supportive of general secretary Sharon Graham – is the subject of complaints to the union after sending an email to pro-Graham executive council (EC) members inviting them to a Zoom meeting to coordinate their activities on the EC.

In a leaked email seen by Skwawkbox, Derek Thomson congratulates the pro-Graham ‘slate’ members who managed to get elected – far fewer than she would have hoped and short of a majority despite ‘dark money’ advertising and despite questions over the eligibility and even racist comments of some candidates standing, with several of Graham’s ‘biggest hitters’ failing to win re-election.

Thomson then tells the recipients that,

During communications last week, it was suggested that we bring together the successful candidates from the slate…

To facilitate this, myself and Chris have set up a Zoom for Tuesday at 6.30pm.

Who ‘Chris’ is was not specified in the email, but Mr Thomson’s out of office auto-reply asks correspondents to “Please contact Chris Stiles… from Unites [sic] National Organising and Leverage Department”, which Sharon Graham ran before she became general secretary.

Unite’s rules forbid the use of paid staff for organising elected ‘lay’ members of the EC and lay out who is allowed to do so:

6.2.1 Only members who are elected to represent workers will be eligible to participate in any body of the union, including any conferences, but with the exception of branch and workplace meetings (which all members can attend) and Area Activists Committees and Regional Labour Party Liaison Committees as specified elsewhere in these Rules…

6.3.2 The range of relevant elected office may be specified by Executive Council guidance in relation to specific rules, however in all cases where the representative has been elected under this guidance to the following roles, such representatives will count as ‘accountable representatives of workers’: convenor shop steward (or “workplace representative”/“father/motherof-the-chapel”, etc., where such phrases are the local colloquial term for such representative as represents members in
bargaining and disciplinary and grievance matters) health and safety representative equalities representative learning representative environmental representative branch secretary/treasurer/chair/equalities officer (where that branch officer is a paid employee of a company or organisation which is not Unite the Union), save with the specific permission of the Executive Council, (taking in to account their current employment). appointment as an “accredited support companion” (aka “lay companion”) in itself would not confer the status of “accountable representative of workers”; to qualify an accredited support companion would also need to hold office as listed above.

Skwawkbox understands that several complaints have already been put in directly to Sharon Graham about this activity against the rules, but that no response or action has so far been taken. There has been disquiet before this among union activists at the alleged use of organisers during and after election campaigns.

Skwawkbox wrote to Unite:

I have a copy of an email sent by new Scottish regional secretary Derek Thomson to members of Unite’s EC inviting them to a Zoom meeting to coordinate ahead of the EC meeting. As you will be aware, this is against Unite’s rules although there have already been accusations of paid organisers and officers acting similarly. Skwawkbox is aware that complaints have already been made to Sharon Graham about this. The Zoom meeting went ahead.

Please advise no later than 5.30pm:

  1. is any action being taken against Mr Thomson for this?
  2. his email mentions ‘communications’ that led to him arranging the zoom meeting for the pro-Sharon ‘slate’ – whose communications?
  3. was Mr Thomson acting on Ms Graham’s orders or with her knowledge or permission?

As requested on previous occasions, please respond substantively rather than sending the same generic smears Unite has used previously against Skwawkbox for daring to scrutinise the conduct of its leadership and senior officers.

    A similar enquiry was sent to Mr Thomson. Neither he nor the union have replied at the time of writing, more than three hours after the expiry of the deadline.

    As well as the numerous concerns over the conduct of the EC election, the union and Sharon Graham have failed to deny that she attempted to have evidence destroyed in bullying and misogyny complaints about her husband, whom she now employs in her office despite a final warning from the union for his behaviour; the union took no action against one of her closest allies despite finding that he had made racist comments on social media, while another candidate who stood on her slate also made racist posts. Ms Graham then denied knowing him, despite being pictured with him in his election materials.

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      1. “I’m struggling to see the relevance of the rules quoted above” Well, consider the purpose of the article and consider what evidence it is able to provide. When you do, you’ll see how strong SW’s research and article are.

        SteveH, skwawky does tell you why he’s citing the rules immediately before he lists them (‘Unite’s rules forbid the use of paid staff for organising elected ‘lay’ members of the EC and lay out who is allowed to do so..’).

        1. qwertboi – Just because someone asserts that something is relevant it doesn’t make it so.

        2. Indeed, SteveH, an assertion can be a statement of fact OR belief. Skwawkbox presents information in the article that shows it’s an assertion of fact (the zoom event). Moreover, until Skwawkie or other journalists publicise the issue(s), Unite could simply ignore any actual complaints made.

          Evidently, even though SW has been informed that ‘several’ complaints were made directly to Sharon Graham, she’s clearly choosing not to defend her new Scottish regional secretary’s illegal undertaking to him (SW).

          SW’s right to wonder if the actions he evidenced were with or without the Gen Sec’s knowledge/permission.

        3. My apologies, my above comment at 4:06 should have been directed at qwertboi.

      1. Lovely article g’bach, but hard work for me at the start, thanks though. I love Naked Capitalism.

        Kenneth Williams is the person I most associate with JaMinute (showing me age, but I did listen to it as a child). The poster you refer to could easily match some of Williams’ humour on certain grounds: “He (Kenneth Williams) once talked for almost a minute about a supposed Austrian psychiatrist called Heinrich Swartzberg, correctly guessing that the show’s creator, Ian Messiter, had just made the name up” (- Wiki), not always being aware of how evidence and fact differs from fiction (esp if a pollster’s involved).

        1. 🛎️Deviation!

          I have simply expressed my opinion, whether you choose to agree/disagree and/or ignore/engage is entirely your choice.
          Thanks for drawing attention to my comment.😏

    1. ‘Thanks for drawing attention to my comment.😏’

      It didn’t need attention SteveH being the first comment on the board – BUT (forgive me if I’m wrong), I genuinely believe you didn’t see how well reasoned, supported with evidence and argued SW’s article is, whereas if Sir no-leader of Labour (or any other right-wing entryist) had made (yet another) unfounded claim or argument, you’d have loyally overlooked irrelevancy and/or fraudulent premises/evidence – and also chastised others for not doing so.

      1. qwertboi – What you choose to believe is of little or no consequence to me.

        1. Indeed.
          And I’m sure that, for the great majority here, the feeling is mutual.
          Dream on.

    2. ******** Lots of speculation that an agreement is in the pipeline to end the Armenia/Azerbaijan conflict. ********

      1. What’s the chance that somewhere in all this ‘hope’, despite/because being non-evident, there’s a Washington Neocon promoting its perception of the interests of ‘the west’?

        1. Both Aliyev (Azerbaijan) and Khachaturyan (Armenia) have been in Moscow a few days ago for talks with Putin. Looks like Russia is trying to broker a peace deal.

        2. My guess is that there will be a few meetings, but if anything significant transpires I could report it.
          Mind you, you could always look for yourself.
          Incidentally, the tone of your comment, as exemplified by the italicisation, seems to indicate that you would not welcome a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Is that the case? please let us know.

        3. goldbach – What a weird interpretation of the short illustrative comment that I made to introduce my link to the video of these talks.
          I was under the impression that the phrase “a frank exchange of views” was accepted ‘diplomatic speak’ for people having an argument.
          A simple thank you would have sufficed.

        4. Ah, I see.
          So you would be pleased if Russia could broker a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

        5. goldbach – I don’t really know that much about their dispute so all I can say is that like any other right minded person I would of course welcome an equitable and lasting resolution to their dispute.

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