December 07, 2006

Institutionalised Racism in Higher Education - UK

Below is an edited version of a paper we received recently. The complete paper (about ten pages) is too long for this blog, but can be downloaded in its entirety (Microsoft Word file). We strongly recommend that you read it.

This story exposes institutionalised racism in Higher Education, and union inactivity - if not collaboration - with employers (certain universities).

There are many parallels with bullying in Higher Education. Remember the words of Tim Field: "Those that can, do. Those that can't, bully" - or discriminate.

Well, Mr. Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, and Rt Hon Bill Rammell MP...



The interesting story of Dr D’Silva published in CAFAS Update No. 52 has prompted us to prepare a follow up story on the Institutionalised Discrimination, extended across the Higher Education Sector...

In Dr D’Silva’s case readers have seen an example of institutionalised discrimination within a single organisation. However, in the present story you will find how Academic Institutions put in place discriminatory regimes, close their ranks and carry out acts of discrimination and victimisation against whistle blowers...

Academic Background:

Recently Mr Deman received overwhelming support for his nomination to the National Executive Membership of the University College Union from across the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales). Some of these people were also members of the CEM and CAFAS. Since Mr Deman does not personally know many of those who nominated him we thought we should provide the members some background information about his academic history, experiences of employment problems and commitment to the Trade Union movement.

Mr Deman obtained his BSc, MA & MPhil from India and an MA & DBA from one of the top universities in the World, the University of Pittsburgh, US and he has also has an M. Phil from the UK. Mr Deman has travelled internationally presenting his research in about 50 countries and has worked in India, Poland, US, Australia, Japan, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and in London as an Assistant Professor/Visiting Professor, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Research Fellow, Research Coordinator, and Professor... He has published about 30 research papers and books articles and he has served on the United Nations Expert Group Panel for UNEP/UNCTAD...

Trade Union Background

Mr Deman is an active member of Civil Liberties and Human Rights organizations. Given his background he is keenly interested in the plight of oppressed and ethnic minority people all over the world. He is a committed trade unionist with considerable trade union experience including working closely with the former Defence Minister of India, Mr. George Fernandez during the 2 million Railway Workers’ Strike of 1974. He has also worked with Mr. Prakash Karat, the present General Secretary of the CPIM, when he was President of the ‘All India Students’ Federation’, the Centre for Indian Trade Unions [CITU], Rajasthan University Teachers’ Association, University Senate and the All Indian Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation.

He has been a founder member of a number organisation including civil rights movements in the UK and elsewhere and a committed member of others. He has never hesitated to voice his opinion on issues surrounding the right to a fair hearing, unfair dismissals, racial discrimination and victimization. He was also one of the founders of the Council for Ethnic Minority, which assists victims in the Employment Tribunal []...

Experience of ANU/NATHFE

With his commitment to trade unionism he was extremely disappointed in the functioning of Trade Unions in Higher Education and the attitude of the leadership. They appeared to be more interested in the public relations exercise rather than undertaking the real work on “the shop floor.” Many who approached them for assistance received platitudes rather than assistance. Thus an individual member seeking a resolution of an employment problem is often brought into conflict not only with his employer but also with his/her union that is supposed to assist in employment problems.

This is demonstrated by the fact that in the period 1997-2004, there were 16 claims of racial discrimination against the Union of which an Iranian member won 2 claims, 6 were settled (including an Iranian member, the union admitted liability in 2 claims), three withdrawn and three pending. Any member considering that the union is there to help him or her in employment difficulties should feel alarmed at these statistics. The above claims do not include claims against the AUT but I suspect the picture is not different.

Mr Deman’s own experiences with the AUT/NATFHE mirror these experiences...

Despite his success his past employer still haunts him by sending one-sided views of his cases to his past & potential employers to victimise him. Unfortunately, his employers (past and present) chose to rely upon the one-sided information and unsolicited references rather than the court transcripts.

In Mr Deman’s claims in 1999 a Central London Tribunal found as follows:

“Dr Triesman was an impressive witness but he displayed a surprised degree of naiveté and ignorance as to the reality of discrimination on the shop floor. His evidence that everything was satisfactory in race terms within the AUT apart from the applicant’s complaint, displayed a surprised degree of ignorance and complacency: It does not follow from the facts that no-one other than the applicant had raised an official grievance under the rules – unlike the applicant – that all ethnic minority members are happy with the state of affairs within the union.” [1/1/44].

“The Tribunal found Dr Joanna DeGroot to be a patronising, unreliable and evasive witness. When asked by a Member of this Tribunal as to how many members of the York University were black, her glib, evasive and unhelpful reply was, “I don’t put labels on people” [1/1/42]

“Dr Triesman should meet with and pay heed to the views of members like Dr Saha, who was a most impressive witness, who wanted to work with and not against the AUT but who are very unhappy with the services provided by the AUT to ethnic minority members. When asked why he had not raised any internal grievance, his telling reply was, “Then I would have ended up like the Applicant”, i.e., in the Tribunal against the AUT, which is not the situation he would like to be in. [1/1/44]

Similarly, the EAT President Justice Lindsay commented in case against the AUT, Triesman and & others as follows:

"For a body, especially one which could be reasonably expected to be well informed and effective as the LAC, to escape a possible conclusion of racial discrimination on the grounds of its incompetence and corner-cutting is obviously unattractive and, if not carefully watched, the use of such an escape route could all too easily become endemic".

However, this forewarning fell on deaf ears. Although Mr. Triesman got a fast track promotion from the AUT to the Labour Party General Secretary, to Lord Triesman as a Government whip, if one examines his record, he has done very little, if anything, for the union and its members. The union rather than uniting against the employers chose to unit against the victims...

Deman’s Treatment in the HE Sector & Tribunals Results

Mr Deman has had his successes within the tribunal system in the rare cases where he received a fair hearing from a chairmen with an open mind who was not intimidated by the high powered and expensive employer’s legal teams. But one must bear in mind that the Employment Tribunals Service Annual Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2005 show only 3% of race discrimination cases were successful at tribunal...

On 9 June 2005 the Tribunal awarded substantial damages, which after a lot of difficulties the Respondents agreed to pay and Mr. Deman cleared some of his debts to his solicitor from previous actions.

University of Greenwich & Russell Brockett, Director of Personnel

In case of his past employer, the University of Greenwich & others in which the AUT & NATFHE refused to provide support the Ashford Tribunal found as follows:

“Mr Geddes was capable of making racist comments” …In our view, the Applicant was on this occasion genuinely of the opinion that the remark was racist. We consider that we are entitled to infer racial discrimination in that instance.” [para 70]...

Greenwich EO Claim & Sir William McPherson Report

Further, the University of Greenwich had been in breach of its own Equal Opportunity commitments as exemplified in its EO report and in the THES.

“Black and ethnic minority constitute 7% of staff who have returned monitoring information. This figure is considerably lower than the percentage of ethnic minority students (28%). The ethnic diversity of staff is also considerably less than the diversity of the population of the London region (20.2%).”

...Unfortunately, the Unions like NATFHE & AUT did not make any comments in the meeting in spite of their outcry against institutional racism within their organisations and in the HE & FE sector for window dressing. In fact, they proactively represented the management although Mr. Deman was the member of both the unions.

The above statistics definitely refutes the University’s claim on equal opportunity. In fact, in the opinions of many leaders of the ethnic community, the University of Greenwich is one of the worst employers located in the Capital of Europe in the new millennium. In the above background the Greenwich Racial Equality Council has included investigations of Institutional Racism at the University of Greenwich as a priority in their work programme 2000-2001, but abandoned it despite the findings of racial discrimination and victimisation.

University of Nottingham & Professor Gow, P-V-C & Ex-Director Business School

Mr Deman also had success own his own against the University of Nottingham & Professor Gow, Director of Business School [Ex- PVC and Present Vice Chancellor of University of Sheffield & Nottingham]...

Professor Wright & Professor Bruce and Professor Gow

“Whereas Professors Greenway and Berry and Ennew saved the university form a far worse fate than may have befallen it, Professor Bruce and Wright quite literally added insult to injury. To cover up what we believe was conscious victimisation, they portrayed the claimant as not being worth the least consideration. Professor Bruce’s rating of him as RAE 2 and Professor Wrights as “3B at best” was not in our view only as Professor Ennew admitted “a tad on the harsh side”, it was high handed, malicious, oppressive and insulting” [paragraph 9.6]...

Further, the Court of Appeal also reversed the decision of Justice Lindsay President of EAT against the AUT, Mr Triesman and others. Recently the EAT has also reversed the decisions of London Tribunal in Deman v London Business School, Sheffield Tribunal in Deman v University of Sheffield & Professor Owen and Croydon Tribunals in Deman v Dr Coates and restored initial decision that Dr Coates was guilty of racial discrimination.

In view of the findings against the Director of Personnel [University of Greenwich] and Pro-Vice-Chancellor & Director of Business Schools [University of Nottingham] Mr Deman has requested both unions, NATFHE & AUT that the above decisions receive publicity as the findings of the Tribunals are of wider public interest. He also requested them to take up the matters with the CRE to order an investigation into these institutions due to the nature of findings against their top officials. When Mr Mackney was cross-examined at the Tribunal, his telling reply to the tribunal was, “I do not want to send the wrong signals to members”. In fact Mr. Deman did not want to send a wrong signal either but for the right reasons and not for a cover up...

Settlements – Kings College, Imperial College, University of Sheffield, University of Wales...

Mr Deman has won on his own in the Tribunals with some assistance of the Council for Ethnic Minority, two claims of victimisation and one of race discrimination and, with the assistance of his QC, three claims against Greenwich. However, due to the Respondents and the Tribunals’ starvation tactics this case cost him twice the amount he recovered. He has also settled 6 claims with the assistance of CEM & a colleague from QUB against King’s College, Imperial College, Sheffield University and University of Wales Swansea, and a number of claims against the Queens University of Belfast for substantial amounts.

However, the process of litigation is very stressful and the cost of litigation on some matters of principle, which he raised in the superior courts, far exceeded the recovery and the rest of the money he has donated to the charitable organisations. He has taken up cases only to satisfy his conscience and not as a means of profiting from the awards. You may not have read anything about Mr Deman’s successes in the union newsletter or newspaper. On the other hand the union has glorified some less compelling and trivial cases to appear they have been doing something.

Grapevine or Institutionalised Racism

Because of findings in Mr Deman’s cases against the HE sector, to date he has been unable to find an academic position due to the grapevine effect as belatedly acknowledged by Mr Kline. The UCU’s recent campaign for race equality has been for tactical reasons to win the support of ethnic minority members in the UCU elections. The Guardian put it very eloquently as follows: “As the UCU today launches its race equality campaign it is high time to ask what is being done? Far from celebrating the growing diversity of UK university staff and students, the HE sector is almost doing the opposite...

Similarly, Dr D’Silva approached NATFHE for legal aid against his employer, MMU & others, which was refused on the pretext that he had no merit in his claims. This caused Dr D’Silva a great deal of psychiatric damage and as a result of this he was unable to attend the hearing at the Tribunal...

Surprisingly, the NATFHE leadership did not hesitate to hide behind a few “so-called” champions of Ethnic minorities in NATFHE [UCU], like Andrew Pike [Anglo-Indian], Peter Jones [Anglo-Burmese], Michael Scott [Anglo-Indian], Roger Kline [Jewish] who shamelessly came forward to defend these heinous acts and discriminatory practices of the Unions. We wonder how anyone could take them seriously on Equal Opportunities and Race Relations?

...In fact the leadership along with the employers united against the victims and their conduct could be summarised as Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT puts it very eloquently, "We are your masters and you shine our shoes. Any weaker enemy has to be crushed so that the right lessons are taught" [see, Noam Chomsky's article in Guardian Weekly 1991].

Old vine in a New Bottle

Recently you may have read in the THES the controversy surrounding Sally Hunt v Mackney who are blaming each other for their own failures and betrayals of union members. You should not be confused by this staged managed debate and EO public relations exercise, as they are two sides of the same coin. They also have recruited a few members from the ethnic minority to carry on their bandwagon. This is high time to focus on effective leadership and at least elect a few people who could keep these self-seekers in line with the interests of the union members.

Tribunals Justice – A Mirage

Our own experiences and those of others whom we have helped, in the cases of discrimination, victimization and breaches of Human Rights have demonstrated the difficulty that an individual has in trying to get justice under UK law and especially within the tribunal system. Regrettably it has also demonstrated to me the lack of effective support that is given to such individuals by the academic unions and pro employer individuals within the unions.

Basically the tribunal system which was supposed to allow the individual the opportunity to represent him or herself, or have their union represent him or her to resolve employment difficulties in a rather informal setting, and at little or no costs has now turned out to be a battleground where the individual is faced with employers fielding huge legal teams including QCs who often intimidate the poorer qualified chairmen. The employment legislation actually calls for an “equality of arms” between parties but with employers spending literally hundreds of thousands in legal fees to defend the action and quite minor awards given to successful applicants – the “scales of justice” are very heavily tilted against applicants seeking justice and especially applicants representing themselves in the absence of legal aid...

Any academic who considers that he or she can have confidence that in the event of employment related problems they will have the support of the union and its officials is likely to find what Mr Deman and others have found i.e. that their confidence will have been misplaced. As we have stated the stark choices facing the individual academic will be to continue suffer the injustice or embark on a similarly difficult path to that which Mr Deman has trodden for the last number of years.

No individual or his or her family should be faced with such a choice and that is why Mr Deman has chosen to stand for this position. He is standing for this position, not to pursue any vendetta against the current or past leadership of the unions, but to give any individual, no matter what their colour or creed, a strong defender WITHIN the trade union rather than have them face the costs, trials and tribulations of actions WITHOUT the union or even worst AGAINST it.

If Mr Deman got elected you have our personal commitment to work tirelessly within and without the union to make it truly and effectively Pro EMPLOYEE and not Pro EMPLOYER in employment disputes, and to commit the funds and resources necessary to give academics effective protection against any form of discrimination, victimisation or employment related pressure. In short, to do what others and we consider a union should do!

C Kumar, Coordinator, Mrs S Mahadevan & AJ Graham [Acting]
Council for Ethnic Minority

Union of Greek Professionals, Portuguese Professional Association, Sri Lankan Professional Organisation, Iranian Scholars Association, NI Professional & Students Organisation, Indian Cultural Society 2000, Ethnic Minority Council Scotland, India-America Society, Employment Tribunal Consumers' Association, NI Human Rights Watch Group for Ethnic Minority, Ethnic Minority Women Association, Overseas Professional Association, etc.

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