Aug 26 2014

Sexist abuse in the Trade Union movement – a case requiring a proper response

The RCN takes seriously the continued appearance of cases of actual and alleged sexual abuse that have arisen in the Socialist, Labour  Trade Union Movements.  Sexist behaviour needs to be driven from our movement and not brushed under the carpet. This is why we have decided to post the statement form Morning Star reporter, Rory Mackinnon and the Morning Star‘s response.

1. Statement from Rory MacKinnon

 My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturday afternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.

It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me with the sack, hauled me through a disciplinary hearing and placed me on a final written warning.

If you want to see my reasons for writing this, skip to the bottom. But I’m a reporter, and in my mind the most important thing is that you all know exactly what’s happened behind closed doors. So let’s get on with it.

Last March a former RMT assistant branch secretary, Caroline Leneghan went public about what she described as a “violent assault” at the hands of Hedley while they had been in a relationship.

“On this occasion he kicked a pot of paint at me, threw me around by my hair and pinned me to the floor repeatedly punching me in the face.”

Leneghan said she had approached both police and the union after their break-up to seek an investigation: her RMT rep confirmed that police had suggested a “high chance of conviction,” but that the six-month window for a charge of common assault had since expired.

Despite this, the union’s then-leadership had decided not to refer the allegations to its national executive for a formal investigation. It was at this point that Leneghan decided to go public.

Now, I don’t pretend to have any inside knowledge, and at the time I had only just been assigned to a post in Scotland and was busy trying to get my feet in under the table up there. But I am a journalist, and when the union agreed to consider an appeal from Leneghan only to see it eventually withdrawn at her request* – amid a pretty vile reaction from some elements of the left – I mentally filed it away as something to keep an eye on.

In March of this year I went as a Morning Star reporter – with the RMT’s approval –  to cover its women’s conference in Glasgow. Women I knew of in the RMT were still talking about Leneghan’s case, and it made sense to me as a reporter to follow it up in the public interest, so I took advantage of a Q&A session with the union’s national organising co-ordinator Alan Pottage – a session on recruiting women organisers and combating sexism in the workplace – to ask whether he thought the lack of formal investigation into the allegations against Hedley had affected women members’ perceptions of the union. Pottage declined to comment and the session continued, but when delegates reconvened for the afternoon session the union’s equalities officer Jessica Webb and executive member Denis Connor approached my seat and forcibly ejected me from the conference.

The very next day the Morning Star’s editor Richard Bagley informed me that I had been suspended following allegations of gross misconduct and that any public comment I might make “could risk bringing the paper into disrepute and could have a bearing on [my] case”.

One month later, I found myself back in London for a disciplinary hearing, with the company’s secretary Tony Briscoe bringing the charges and Bagley sitting in judgement. But as the Morning Star management’s minutes and my own notes show, it quickly became clear that the real nature of the accusations had nothing to do with the charge sheet and everything to do with appeasement.

From the minutes:

“RB: You have three years’ experience as a Morning Star journalist. Given the type of stories you’ve covered previously do you think the paper would have published a story on the issue you raised?”

“RB: So let’s clarify the role of the Morning Star here: internal union matters are different from inter-union matters.”

“TB: It’s debatable whether the NUJ (National Union of Journalists – Rory) code of conduct applies in a situation such as this and the fact you asked it raises a question about your approach. The question feels more like something a Daily Mail reporter would ask than someone from the Morning Star. You should have known better. This indicates a lack of journalistic etiquette and has damaged our relationship with the trade union movement.”

And from my own notes:

TB: “I would have thought the role of the Morning Star reporter was to progress the aims & goals of the paper.”

TB: “I would expect that sort of question to be asked in the Daily Mail or the Sun.

TB: “I would say the public has no right to know about the ins-&-outs of the relationship between Leneghan & Hedley.”

Shortly afterwards I received Bagley’s written judgement. The thrust of the Morning Star’s editorial policy is below:

“After three years at the paper you should reasonably be expected to be familiar with the paper’s news priorities, which do not include reporting internal union rows or personal controversy. Your actions suggest a fundamental failure to grasp the Morning Star’s news focus, and by extension the role of any journalist employed by it.”

I was placed on a final written warning with twelve months’ probation, then went on to appeal, but that’s boring procedural stuff that isn’t really relevant.

What’s relevant, to my mind, is that readers cannot trust the Morning Star’s current leadership to report on abuse allegations and failures to formally investigate when they concern favoured figures in the trade union movement, even when those figures are elected officials. As the edition for 24 July shows, however- coincidentally the same day I had decided to give my notice – those Nasty Tories cannot expect such discretion. Feminist principles are a weapon with which to attack the right, but not an end in itself for the left.

I’ve written this because I was told that “the public has no right to know.” I think the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union’s members do have a right to know about their leaders’ decision not to hold a formal investigation into reports of violence against a female member, and I think the Morning Star’s readers and supporters also have a right to know that the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.

It is quite possible that the Morning Star’s management committee – a panel which includes the National Assembly of Women’s Anita Wright – have not been told anything about this. If so, I hope that they will investigate and reassert the paper’s editorial independence. I am not trying to wreck the Morning Star here. I am insisting that it commits to its feminist principles and treats readers with the respect they deserve.

Rory MacKinnon
Morning Star reporter (2011-2014)

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UPDATE – This post was drafted on Saturday 26 July, the day after informing the Morning Star’s management of my intent to quit. On Monday, 28 July, the paper announced company secretary Tony Briscoe’s retirement and editor Richard Bagley’s departure “for family reasons”. Bagley would continue to work for the paper, the report added.

  • 6:53pm: Caroline writes, “There’s a mistake here, The executive refused my appeal, after that the only route was the agm, which is the quashed one, as I realised all my documents, statements etc had been distributed to hundreds of people without my knowledge”.

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2. Morning Star Response

 

In response to recent claims made by Rory MacKinnon — who finishes his employment at the Morning Star on Friday August 8 — the Morning Star completely and utterly rejects the allegations that Mr MacKinnon was disciplined for attempting to raise allegations of domestic abuse.

It is interesting to note that he never formally raised such an allegation until he resigned, while facing further investigations into allegations of misconduct.

For the record, in April 2014 Mr MacKinnon was properly disciplined on charges of breaking the trust and confidence expected of him as a Morning Star reporter and of bringing the paper into disrepute.

The Morning Star wholly rejects Mr MacKinnon’s offensive claims that “the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.”

The Morning Star always has and always will condemn violence against women in all its forms, in the strongest possible terms.

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also see:-

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/04/16/feminism-and-the-crisis-in-the-british-socialist-workers-party/

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/02/26/comradely-conduct-policy/

 

 

 

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Aug 25 2014

PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN UKRAINE: DRIVERS ARE FORGOTTEN

A major dispute is underway in the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnitsky where the transport workers have organised in the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU). Pavlo Vezdenetsky is an organiser of the KVPU who has been campaigning in the city, in response the management are now victimising the union representative Anastasia Podpruzhnikova, falsifying her sick record and she has been threatened by Police. The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign calls for support for the Ukrainian transport workers (see www.ukrainesolidarity.co.uk).

 

Ukraine’s transport sector is repeating the mistakes of Thatcher’s public transport reforms in the UK.

After the fall of Soviet Union in 1991 public transport entered a difficult period. The disintegration of the post-soviet Ukrainian economy saw a sharp deterioration of public transport and especially working conditions.  There was no investment in a new fleet and drivers salaries were very low – at a level 30-40$/month. (Yes forty dollars per month). The established soviet trade unions didn’t try to fight against these unfair conditions, under the previous communist regime their role were only to help keep workers under Communist Party control and to provide some benefits (organising of summer vacations, workers health centres, etc.).

Continue reading “PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN UKRAINE: DRIVERS ARE FORGOTTEN”

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Aug 17 2014

PROTESTING AGAINST THE UK GOVERNMENT’S LAUNCH OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR COMMEMORATION IN GLASGOW ON AUGUST 4th.

Eric Chester (RCN) reports on the official opening of the UK government’s First World War commemoration in Glasgow on August 4th.

RCN members on August 4th demonstration

RCN members join the August 4th demonstration (photograph by Patricia Kirk)

 

The UK government is determined to use the commemoration of World War I as an opportunity to promote militarism and imperialism and to defend the British role during that war. The last part of the ceremony on August 4 at George Square made this blatantly clear, as soldiers and sailors strutted around the square in military fashion to the applause of many in the audience. Jingoism in its purest form. (August 4, 2014 marks one hundred years since the UK entered World War I. An observance was held at Glasgow Cathedral followed by a wreath laying ceremony at George Square in the heart of the city centre.)

Continue reading “PROTESTING AGAINST THE UK GOVERNMENT’S LAUNCH OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR COMMEMORATION IN GLASGOW ON AUGUST 4th.”

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Aug 15 2014

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF COUNTER-REVOLUTION

Kool34 sent us a comment on the articles in our recent bulletin on the First World War (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/08/09/emancipation-liberation-special-bulletin-the-centenary-of-the-world-war-i-imperialist-slaughter/#more-7342). This comment invited us to read the following article by Mark Kosman. We are pleased to draw this to the attention of our readers.

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In 1871, Karl Marx wrote that governments use war as a fraud, a “humbug, intended to defer the struggle of the classes” (1). In 1914, that fraud was so effective that not only most workers, but also most Marxists, supported their respective nation’s rush to war. Ever since then, governments have used war to defer class struggle and prevent revolution. But this strategy cannot last forever.

Continue reading “ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF COUNTER-REVOLUTION”

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Aug 15 2014

WALES AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE – Leanne Wood, President of Plaid Cymru

Last year, in the run-up to the second RIC Conference, the Edinburgh branch put forward a proposal to organise a session on ‘Internationalism from below and the break-up of the UK, with speakers from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, This was agreed agreed and Mary MacGregor ( Dundee RIC), Bernadette McAliskey, Steve Freeman (Republican Socialist Alliance in England) and Leanne Wood (President, Plaid Cymru) were all invited to speak. Unfortunately, Leanne had another engagement and sent her apologies.

In June, some Plaid Cymru activists met with Pat Smith and Allan Armstrong of the Edinburgh RIC branch, and with Glasgow RIC members. The net result of this was decision to reinvite Leanne to speak in Scotland. In the event, the venue chosen was Glasgow. And, as you will to read from Leanne’s talk below, this was a particularly appropriate decision. 

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Leanne Wood speaking to RIC public meeting in St. Andrews Hall, Glasgow, July 22nd

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I want to thank you for the invitation to speak to you this evening. 
It is a particular pleasure to address you at this venue.

The last Welsh political leader to visit this building, as I understand, was David Lloyd George back in 1917 as Prime Minister, when this building was known as St Andrew’s Hall.

Continue reading “WALES AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE – Leanne Wood, President of Plaid Cymru”

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Aug 14 2014

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society wrote the following article for the Irish-based 1916 Societies. Here Jim examines the implications of the Scottish referendum for Ireland.

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As Scotland enters the final three months of the independence referendum campaign it remains too close to call. The No campaign have been consistently ahead throughout but the gap has been steadily narrowing. It seems certain that barring some unforeseen catastrophe befalling one of the campaigns the referendum will go right to the wire. While constitutional nationalists in Ireland, and their supporters in Scotland, have insisted on sitting on the fence on the future of the UK state the 1916 Societies have been clear about our commitment to campaigning for a Yes vote. We will continue to view the constitutional debate in Scotland as an opportunity to offer a republican analysis of the UK state and to link Scotland’s referendum with the campaign for an all Ireland constitutional referendum.

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Aug 10 2014

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, THIS LAND IS MY LAND

 

Ray Burnett, who lives in Benbecula, wrote the following article for Bella Caledonia on the continuing significance of the ‘Land Question’ in Scotland.

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‘Divide and rule’. It’s the oldest game in town, so why on earth do we fall for it? Set up the polarities: Highlander/Lowlander, Gaidheal/Gall, local/incomer, crofter/environmentalist and let rancour commence. Scotland fractures, this great ‘Union’ of ours is thereby preserved and we will all live happily hereafter – ‘Better Together’ an’ a’ that.

Continue reading “THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, THIS LAND IS MY LAND”

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Aug 10 2014

THE FURTHER DECLINE OF THE ‘NEW UNIONIST’ SETTLEMENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND

In the following two articles from Socialist Democracy (Ireland), John McAnulty of chronicles the further decline of the ‘New Unionist’ settlement in Northern Ireland.

 

1) ON THE RUNS – CONCESSIONS TO SINN FEIN WERE MERE SMOKE AND MIRRORS

Lady Justice Hallet, author of 'On the Runs'

Lady Justice Hallet, author of ‘On the Runs’

 

When Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was nominated to head an enquiry into child sexual abuse by leading politicians, there was an outcry that objected to her on the grounds of her position within the establishment. The victims objected to a “safe pair of hands” guiding the enquiry.

Continue reading “THE FURTHER DECLINE OF THE ‘NEW UNIONIST’ SETTLEMENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND”

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Aug 09 2014

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE RCN’S ‘WHAT WE STAND FOR’

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The Republican Communist Network (Scotland) can be considered a ‘work on progress’. The principles upon which we stand can be summed up in our ‘What We Stand For’. However, these are not fixed but are changed through new knowledge gained in the struggles we are engaged in. The last change was made in May 2012 (see http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/06/11/rcn-what-we-stand-for/) Since then we have been involved in the movement for Scottish self-determination, as well attempting to go deeper into the roots of women’s oppression after the inability of socialists to properly address the occurrence of sexual assaults within our movement.

Continue reading “PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE RCN’S ‘WHAT WE STAND FOR’”

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Aug 09 2014

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – Special Bulletin the Centenary of the World War I Imperialist Slaughter

 

WORLD WAR I – THE CATASTROPHIC RESULT OF IMPERIALIST RIVALRIES

 

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 On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, A Serbian nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire. This incident sparked World War I, that soon engulfed much of the world and led to the deaths of millions of soldiers, and millions of civilians.

Continue reading “EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – Special Bulletin the Centenary of the World War I Imperialist Slaughter”

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