In the cold and grey of Holloway Road yesterday afternoon, a large crowd of people gathered outside the scheduled hearing for the absent Jawad Botmeh to protest at his treatment and the treatment of well respected London Met UNISON Branch Chair Max Watson by their employer, London Metropolitan University.
The sudden and unjustified suspension of the newly elected staff governor, Jawad (elected with a mandate strong enough to win on first round voting), and of Max had obviously sent shockwaves through the members of both major unions at the university, UNISON and UCU.
Messages of support were read out from Jeremy Corbyn, the local Member of Parliament, Chris Tansley UNISON President, Denise Ward, the UNISON HE Service Group Executive Chair as well as from multiple branch secretaries, chairs and regional organisers of UNISON, UCU, UNITE and the NUT.
“As President of UNISON I send my personal message of support to both Max and Jawad. These are clearly difficult times for them, the Branch and our members and I hope the process can be resolved swiftly. Of course I will ensure that UNISON provides every possible support and representation to our members and works to finding a resolution”
“As the Chair of UNISON’s Higher Education service group executive, I would like to offer my support and solidarity to Max Watson, UNISON branch chair, and Jawad Botmeh, elected staff governor at London Metropolitan University.
I have known Max for years and have always known him to be a hard-working, committed UNISON representative. He has worked tirelessly to represent UNISON members in Higher Education both individually and collectively, and he has also campaigned hard for the kind of HE system we want to see – publicly run, publicly funded, accessible to all. He has spoken up for the University and its students on matters like funding cuts and the UKBA crisis last year.
UNISON will of course be fully supporting both Max and Jawad. I hope that the University sees sense as soon as possible, and lets Max and Jawad get back to working hard for students and for UNISON members in HE.”
UNISON HE Service Group Executive Chair
The gathering also heard Sandy Nicoll, UNISON Branch Secretary of the School of Oriental and African Studies, speak in support of Max and Jawad. London Met UCU Chair, Mark Campbell pointed out that the action being taken against Max and Jawad, far from only being an attack on two innocent individuals, was in fact a concerted attack on all trade union members at the university – their guarantee of union representation and their legal working rights as employees – and that they must be resisted.
On the advice of UNISON, Max had not attended the lobby in person but sent a message which thanked the gathered crowd for their support and robustly defended Jawad as a person, a dedicated staff member and trade unionist. His statement reminded those present of the adversity London Met staff have faced in the last four years from their own management and external bodies such as the UKBA, and how he and London Met UNISON have stood up in defence of our staff every step of the way.
Finally Harry Lister, UNISON London Regional Organiser, reported the welcome news that the University had decided it would postpone Jawad’s hearing until he was physically able to attend on Monday 18 February at 1.30pm. The lobby was closed with a rallying cry to continue the fight against the injustices being forced on Max, Jawad and thus all of us.
Thanks to all members who have shown solidarity with Jawad and Max through their words and emails of support and by braving the freezing temperatures at yesterday’s lobby. We will, of course, be lobbying outside Jawad’s hearing on Monday and ask that EVEN MORE of you attend so he can see first hand how we all stand united with him and Max.
On behalf of the UNISON Branch Committee