Union chiefs set for sack over 'battle of barbecue'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The top two officials at one of Britain's most powerful unions faced dismissal after their senior colleagues decided to discipline them over a devastating report into the "battle of the barbecue''.

The top two officials at one of Britain's most powerful unions faced dismissal after their senior colleagues decided to discipline them over a devastating report into the "battle of the barbecue''.

Shaun Brady, the Blairite general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, and its left-wing president, Martin Samways, have been ordered to appear at hearings over their involvement in the "sorry events'' of 20 May and are expected to be sacked. A third senior official, Mick Blackburn, is facing disciplinary action on an unrelated financial matter. All three, currently suspended from their jobs, are expected to deny the allegations.

The report into the row at a party at the union's headquarter's, seen by The Independent, censures the two most senior officers, but reserves its fiercest criticism for Mr Samways, who was found to have struck Mr Brady's female personal assistant.

The document, drawn up by a three-person team under the auspices of the TUC, urges Aslef to end its "self-destructive drink and pub-related culture". Investigators found that Mr Samways had become "loud and abusive" after joining the party in Hampstead, north London. He was found to have been particularly abusive to Julie Atkinson, the general secretary's personal assistant.

Mr Brady was said to have used excessive force in removing the president, but it was also found that Mr Samways had struck Ms Atkinson in the mouth when she tried to get past him, although the investigators were not sure whether the blow was aimed at her.

The document added that the president routinely used abusive language to female members of the staff.

Two witnesses told the inquiry that there had been a "vicious assault'' on the president by the general secretary, but that lacked credibility, the report said. "We do not find that the general secretary assaulted the president. We do however find that the two men engaged in what could be described as a 'brawl', a 'fight' or 'wrestling'."

The report says that three members of staff who were at the party should not have been suspended and should not lose their jobs over the incident.

It added that in some cases evidence supplied to them about the fight was "wholly lacking in credibility'', but "in other cases we got the strong impression that witnesses who wished to speak the whole truth were literally prevented from doing so by genuine - and we are unhappy to report - realistic fear as to the impact of this on their livelihoods''.

In a visit to the union's headquarters yesterday, Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, tried to persuade the Aslef executive to call an end to the affair, arguing that disciplinary action against the protagonists would simply prolong the agony for the union.

However, executive members voted unanimously to continue with the process, which is expected to end with the general secretary and the president leaving the union.

Comments