FBU general secretary hit with racial discrimination claim by serving executive council member

FBU executive council member David Shek

BACK IN APRIL, this blog reported that an unnamed member of the FBU’s ruling executive council (EC) had lodged a legal claim of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 against the union’s general secretary, Matt Wrack.

At the time, details were sketchy. However, we can now reveal that the EC member in question is London representative David Shek, and the claim is one of racial discrimination.

This blog must point out that it has not seen any documentation relating to the claim and cannot therefore comment on its merits. It is also only fair to stress that the general secretary has made it known that he strenuously denies the allegations against him.

However, we have been informed by well-placed sources that a number of serving and former FBU officials have submitted witness statements in support of Shek. We can also reveal that an attempt by the general secretary’s legal team to have the claim struck out was rejected by an employment tribunal judge at a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

The case will now proceed to a full hearing before the tribunal next year, with the general secretary expected to take the witness stand to answer the allegations levelled at him.

In the interests of transparency, it is quite legitimate for this blog to report these facts (indeed, many of them have already been reported formally to the union’s EC, and we also know, again through well-placed sources, that some EC members have divulged details privately to officials within their regions). If the general secretary of our union is being sued by a fellow senior official in relation to actions he is alleged to have taken while acting in his official capacity, that is plainly not a private matter, nor one that should be concealed from the union’s membership.

Moreover, we know that the general secretary made a formal request to the union for representation on the matter. That request was approved, and representation has subsequently been provided to the general secretary by the union’s recognised solicitors, as well as a king’s counsel (KC). It is therefore reasonable to assume that, as is always the case when the union affords legal representation to a member, any bill for costs is being met from union funds. This therefore strengthens the case for openness and the right of members to know the basic details.

The general secretary is already under mounting pressure to explain why several employees have departed the union over recent years with secret pay-offs and non-disclosure agreements. As this blog revealed, some of these employees made direct accusations of bullying against the general secretary. In one case, a national officer – Paul Woolstenholmes – alleged that he had been persistently mistreated by the general secretary while at work. Woolstenholmes was subsequently handed an exit payment of over £100,000 in return for signing a gagging agreement. It was later discovered that the general secretary had controversially withheld details of that payment from members of the EC, telling them that it ‘would be inappropriate’ to provide any information regarding the terms of Woolstenholmes’ departure.

The whole ‘hush money’ scandal has even reached the pages of Private Eye magazine, and this blog can confirm that the trade union watchdog – known as the ‘certification officer’ – is currently considering a collective complaint from several FBU members and former officials into the secret payments. At least four serving or former members of the executive council have provided witness statements in support of that complaint.

Earlier this year, this blog also revealed how a 66-year-old female employee had been subjected to appalling and unjustified treatment at the hands of the FBU leadership.

In May, delegates to the FBU’s annual conference voted to commission an independent review into complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination inside the union. That review must report its findings by next year’s annual conference.

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