Supporters believe campaign to reinstate 3 members of staff could prove to be a landmark issue for the wider union movement

Tim Lezard

max-watsonEducation union activists are expected to take part in a lobby at the embattled London Metropolitan University later today at a hearing over the suspension of a union rep elected to the university’s governing body.

Jawad Botmeh is one of three staff at the Working Lives Research Institute who have been suspended over what colleagues and supporters say are ‘trumped up’ charges of misconduct.

UNISON says Jawad Botmeh, branch chair Max Watson and WLRI’s Professor Steve Jeffreys have been singled out in part because of the union’s success last year in defeating £74m privatisation plans.

Max Watson (pictured, above) told UnionNews: “This is about privatisation and about our right to challenge the management rather than manage their challenges and our right to be effective when we stand up and say ‘no, we will not accept that.'”

Supporters believe the campaign to reinstate the three members of staff could prove to be a landmark issue for the wider trade union movement.

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka told a public meeting held near the university last night: “What is at stake here is that an incompetent management, when everyone can see that a tissue of lies this is, can get away with victimising or ultimately sacking people on such a trumped up set of charges.

“I cannot think of a more important reason for trade unions everywhere to get behind this campaign.

“Because if we can stop it here, it sends an equally powerful message to everybody on our side, which is – when we stand together we can win and stop them in their tracks.”

The dispute relates to Jawad Botmeh’s appointment to the WLRI, five years ago.

He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail in connection with the 1994 bombing of the Israeli embassy in London.

Released in 2008, supporters say he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and they believe the university has only chosen to question his appointment now because he was elected to the board of governors.

More than 100 people attended last night’s meeting, including representatives from education unions, the UCU, NUT and NUS, as well as from the transport union TSSA and others.

Supporters of the three members of staff believe their suspension signals an attempt by the university authorities to end research into working class history at LMU at the same time as turning the university into what Professor Jeffreys described as a “degree factory for working class kids”.

Says Max Watson: “It is humbling when people stand up on a platform to defend you.

“But we can only win this because it is not about me, or Jawad or Steve, or Jawad being Palestinian or my politics.

“It is about our right to elect our own reps – and that means everyone has a role to play. And they have.

“They are out supporting us and it’s great.”

More than 1200 people have signed a petition calling for the 3 to be re-instated. Last month, the RMT general secretary Bob Crow wrote to the university expressing ‘shock and disgust’ at their treatment.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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