Aslef president quits over brawl at union barbecue

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The Independent Online

Martin Samways yesterday resigned as president of one of Britain's most powerful unions to go back to work as a goods train driver in the wake of the "battle of the barbecue".

Martin Samways yesterday resigned as president of one of Britain's most powerful unions to go back to work as a goods train driver in the wake of the "battle of the barbecue".

Mr Samways, 57, denied "intentionally or unintentionally" striking a female member of staff at the train drivers' union Aslef, but said he was quitting for the good of his organisation.

"I just want to let the union get on with its normal business. The union is bigger than any one person," he said.

The former Aslef president said that the other main protagonist in the brawl at a late-night party at the union's headquarters - the general secretary Shaun Brady - should now also consider his position.

Mick Blackburn, the assistant general secretary, is facing disciplinary action on an unrelated financial matter.

Mr Brady, 41, also suspended from office over the fracas, said that a report into the brawl at the party on 20 May vindicated his behaviour.

The general secretary repeated his allegation that Mr Samways had "turned up drunk at the party, abused people and then lashed out at a member of staff". The woman allegedly injured by Mr Samways was Julie Atkinson, the general secretary's personal assistant.

Mr Brady indicated that he would refuse to co-operate with a disciplinary process conducted by the executive over the findings of a report into the incident, which found that he had been involved in a "brawl" with Mr Samways.

Mr Brady said that he could not expect a fair hearing from the executive, which had already decided to dismiss him.

In a letter of resignation, Mr Samways conceded that he had brought "huge shame" and "disgrace" on the union.

He wrote: "On the night in question I lapsed along with others and made a terrible error of judgement. I made a mistake. However I am big enough to admit my mistakes and to try and rectify that mistake by acknowledging that I should resign my position in the union forthwith."

He added: "I hoped that others would have done the same, so they too could try and retain some modicum of credibility and self-dignity."

He said that while he did not want to comment on the events in detail, there were parts of the report that he did not consider to be "truthful".

"I deny that I have ever assaulted Ms Atkinson intentionally or unintentionally," he said.

After two weeks' holiday Mr Samways will resume work as a driver at the Doncaster depot of the freight train company English, Welsh & Scottish. The three-member panel, which wrote the report, said that the behaviour of Mr Samways had been "wholly unacceptable", but also that Mr Brady had been involved in a fight. The report urged Aslef to end what it called its "self-destructive drink and pub-related culture".

Three members of Aslef's staff have also been suspended since the barbecue incident, but the report said they should not have been laid off and should not lose their jobs.

A separate report is being prepared into the administration of the union over the past decade, which is expected to be published soon.

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