Dear Trade Union Friends,
I’m writing to let you know that I was suspended on Wednesday by Londonmet after a 45 minute investigation into the WLRI because I appointed a former prisoner who had served 13 years imprisonment to a part-time, casual three month maternity cover job in our social justice Institute.
Did I know that his conviction in 1996 was for conspiracy to blow up the Israeli embassy? Yes. I also knew that he had been refused parole for 6 years because he maintained his innocence, and that Paul Foot and Robert Fisk had campaigned for him. And I saw his CV which included his having completed an OU degree in sociology and an MA in Peace and Reconciliation (with merit), as well has having been prisoners’ rep on equality issues.
But actually, although this all made him an ideal person to work with us, I felt there was also a basic human rights issues involved. Do we give people a second chance?
The inference involved in my suspension and possible disciplinary action is that I am involved in mistakenly appointing an ex high profile prisoner who eventually got elected as staff governor, (which five years after Jawad Botmeh started work has now triggered three suspensions). All that did motivate me was fairness, and a desire to get the best person to do the job, whoever he or she was.
Everyone who knows me or my work knows that I am a principled socialist. But for me, my decision not to discriminate against this applicant whom I had never met, and whom Max Watson (a now very active UNISON trade unionist who is also suspended) had met once at a party is actually the survival of a liberal approach to others in my university. If a Research Institute dedicated to the promotion of social justice in a public institution will not give someone like Jawad the chance to work, who else will?
You’ll realise that we are all in a state of shock. Three of the 13 WLRI staff are now suspended. Two others are still under investigation. I fear for our future – just weeks after celebrating our tenth anniversary.
all the best