Train drivers' union leader sacked over barbecue brawl

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The Independent Online

The leader of the train drivers' union Aslef, Shaun Brady, was sacked yesterday for "gross misconduct" arising from the notorious barbecue brawl at the union's headquarters.

Mr Brady was given the news in a letter delivered by courier to his home and now has six weeks to launch an appeal to save his job.

He had been suspended from his post of general secretary of Aslef since May after the fracas at a barbecue at the union's main office in north London.

Mr Brady appeared before Aslef's executive on Thursday to face seven disciplinary charges, emerging to admit that his job was on the line.

The dismissal was not connected to the brawl but related to a charge of failing to carry out the instructions of the executive to co-operate with an independent inquiry into the union's affairs, conducted by the eminent QC Matthias Kelly.

The union said the executive found Mr Brady guilty of gross misconduct, adding: "He is dismissed from office".

He was also censured for bringing the union into disrepute, although he was cleared of deliberately attempting to mislead Mr Kelly's inquiry.

Mr Brady, 41, had also been accused of using his Aslef credit card to obtain a £6,228.13 cash advance and not accounting for it, but the executive said it accepted an explanation given during Thursday's hearing.

Three other charges, including another of bringing the union into disrepute, were deferred because witnesses had not turned up at the disciplinary hearing.

A committee made up of representatives from eight Aslef regions will be set up to consider any appeal by Mr Brady and its decision will be binding.

Mr Brady was suspended along with the assistant general secretary, Mick Blackburn, and the president, Martin Samways, five days after the barbecue incident.

Mr Samways has resigned and Mr Blackburn will face a disciplinary hearing next week.

The Kelly report accused Mr Brady of handling the union's staff "aggressively and insensitively". It said that he had engaged in a power struggle.

The union's annual conference was suspended in June and has been rescheduled for September.

Mr Brady is the first serving union general secretary to be dismissed since 1991, when the leader of the National Union of Journalists was sacked after clashing with his executive.

The Aslef leader has been at odds with his executive since he was surprisingly elected general secretary last year when he beat the left-winger Mick Rix.

Mr Brady took office in October but has been involved in a series of clashes with the union's leadership and staff.

He threatened some head office staff with dismissal, forcing the TUC to intervene and to broker a peace deal between Mr Brady and the GMB union, which represents staff.

Later Mr Brady, a former South West Trains driver, complained that he had been stripped of power by his executive and had to ask permission to buy a jar of coffee.

The barbecue incident has dismayed officials from many unions because they believe it has damaged the movement and given unions a bad image.

Aslef is one of the country's most powerful unions but has been accused of engaging in "civil war" for the past year.

Mr Brady said he was "disappointed and bewildered" by the sacking and he would be considering his position.

He said he had not been officially informed of the dismissal.