Thursday, July 04, 2013

Success in Basra, So-so in London

HASSAN JUMA'A (with mike).  Case falls, after EIGHT attempts! Oil workers' leader thanks international solidarity campaign. 

REMISS of me not to update this blog on a couple of issues we have been following.

FIRST, from IRAQ, we got this news on Monday:

Today the company lawyer and the prosecutor have repeated the accusation against Hassan but in the same time confirmed that there is no damages caused by Hassan’s activities. The prosecutor have asked to close the case and drop the charges. Hassan’s lawyer didn’t need to present his defense and he didn’t expect that the prosecutor will demand dropping the charges. .... Hopefully this will deter future malicious and repressive prosecutions.

Hassan Juma'a Awad, the leader of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, had been facing charges that he organised strikes and campaigned against oil privatisation, in other words did what a union leader ought to be doing, but as Iraq since "liberation" has retained legislation from Saddam Hussein's regime where unions are concerned, he was facing a possible prison sentence. Here is a report from an international union centre:

"The Basra court hearings, originally tabled for 20 March, 7 April, 15 April, 2 May, 19 May, 3 June, and 17 June were all postponed when the Ministry of Oil, the Southern Oil Company (SOC) and its legal representatives consistently failed to provide any evidence in support of their claims that Hassan Juma’a was guilty of undermining the Iraqi economy by organizing illegal strikes and publicly criticizing the privatization of Iraq’s oil.

"The 1 July hearing took less than 30 minutes to reach the decision to drop the charges after the company lawyer and the prosecutor repeated the accusations against Hassan but at the same time confirmed that there were no damages caused by Hassan's activities. The prosecutor asked to close the case and drop the charges. On this occasion Hassan's lawyer did not even need to present his defense.

"If convicted he would have faced stiff fines and up to three years in prison. This is the first time an Iraqi trade unionist has been charged under penal code 111-1969, an archaic law that the Saddam Hussein regime used to repress state employees".   

A number of international union organisations were supporting Hassan Juma'a against this threat, US Labor Against the War(USLaw) circulated an international petition, and here in London a number of us had pledged to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy if the oilworkers' leader was sentenced.

Hassan Juma’a issued this statement on behalf of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU):
 “In such a happy occasion we would like to thank unions, federations, organizations and individuals who have contributed to the International Campaign to drop the charges and signed the letter addressed to Mr. Prime Minister of Iraq. Around 41 international federations and unions, 44 national federations and unions, 68 non-governmental organization contributed to the campaign. We specially thank the following organizations which tributed to the coordination of the international campaign: Initiative of Solidarity with the Iraqi Civil Society (ICSSI), the (USLAW), International Solidarity Center (SC) and IndustriALL.

 This verdict is a victory of the union freedoms in Iraq and the entire world. It is the best evidence that labour international solidarity is capable of achieving rights.
 To the Iraqi government and the ministry of oil: IFOU and its president were never against or source of harm to the Iraqi economy. We were the ones who protected oil and work facilities during difficult times including the occupation period. However, we will continue to practice our rights guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution including our right on trade union organization, defending workers and oil workers' rights and the national interests. We will continue our struggle and call for the issuance of a labor and trade union law. We are open to cooperate with government and international organizations to achieve this demand.”

And so from Iraqi oilworkers to the staff at London Metropolitan University who have been facing victimisation in what looks very much like a case of the authorities bowing to outside pressure. The most senior of those under threat, Professor Stephen Jefferys, issued this statement on Monday:
STEVE JEFFERYS takes a break from troubled academe with his granddaughter

With one bound...

< I am writing to you to thank you for supporting our campaign and signing a petition in February and March of this year protesting at the suspensions by London Metropolitan University of myself (Professor of European Employment Studies), Max Watson (the UNISON trade union branch chairperson) and Jawad Botmeh (a Palestinian who had served 13 years in prison as a result of a major miscarriage of justice) in connection with the Working Lives Research Institute having given Jawad work. You may remember that the suspensions followed immediately after Jawad's being elected by LondonMet staff to represent them as a Governor on the LondonMet Board of Governors.

The result of your efforts was a real success: we were all reinstated by March 13. Jawad resigned as Governor on March 14 and is now back at work.

However, senior management has continued to attempt to make life difficult for Max and me by charging both of us with 'serious misconduct' in connection with Jawad's appointment to a half-time casual job in 2008. This was despite the fact that his 2010 appointment to a permanent post was what triggered his ability to stand as a Governor - and the fact that this appointment went through HR and was raised with Professor Malcolm Gillies, five months after he became VC.

In our hearings and at our appeals both Max and I were found 'guilty': Max for 'not remembering' how Jawad had found out about job and for allegedly 'coaching' him (the only candidate); me - although no rules were broken - for failing to approach an even more senior management to approve such a 'controversial' appointment.

While Max was a junior administrative assistant at the time of Jawad's appointment, and I was responsible for it - a decision that led to no risk or damage to the university, staff or students (unlike a series of other decisions taken by other senior managers, none of whom we were told at my appeal, has ever been taken before the university's disciplinary proceedings) - our punishments are now different.

As from today, July 1, the Final Warning I was issued on April 23rd, has now expired. It is for this reason I am now able to write to you all to explain what has happened.

Unfortunately, Max Watson has got a six months' Final Warning which will now only expire on November 1. This is disgraceful treatment of a worker who did absolutely nothing wrong; and it confirms concerns that the management has all along aimed to victimise him because he is an effective trade unionist. This issue is obviously of particular concern to the UNISON trade union, the UK's largest public sector union, but it it also of concern to all who are concerned with rights at work and social justice.

One final suggestion. The Working Lives Research Institute is about rights at work and social justice. If you are not already on our mailing list, I would like to invite you to go to
and to sign up. Besides showcasing the research projects we work on, under Courses on the website you will find our flagship Professional Doctorate programme - the DProf (Researching Work). This is a part-time doctoral programme that operates on a 5 a year two-day intensive study basis and leads to a doctoral degree usually based on a thesis probing a professional issue of direct relevance to you. Do contact us if you are interested... a new cohort is starting in October.

Of course, our DProf programme will now be enriched with a critical analysis of our own arbitrary managerial action and of the ethics of human resource management, as well as with examples from our recent research on Forced Labour (for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation),

Once again, Thanks for your support. You helped us win reinstatement.
Solidarity remains as important for social justice as ever.

yours in solidarity

Steve Jefferys
(In personal capacity)
Director, Working Lives Research Institute,
Faculty Advanced Institute for Research (Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities)
London Metropolitan University

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