UCU cleared of harassment in landmark tribunal
An Employment Tribunal has found in favour of UCU on all ten complaints of harassment brought by a UCU member who opposed the union's policy on Palestine.
The claimant had been supported in his claim by leading lawyer Anthony Julius. In giving their reasoning the Tribunal stated that 'the proceedings are dismissed in their totality' and 'we greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.'
The Tribunal also described themselves as troubled by the implications of the claim, stating that 'underlying it we sense a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression, principles which the courts and tribunals are, and must be, vigilant to protect'.
While witnesses for UCU were described in the tribunal's decision as 'careful and accurate', some witnesses for the claimant were described as appearing to 'misunderstand the nature of the proceedings and more disposed to score points or play to the gallery rather than providing straightforward answers to the clear questions put to them'.
John Mann MP and former MP Denis MacShane were collectively described as giving 'glib evidence, while testimony of another key witness for the claimant was described as 'extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing'.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'I am delighted that the Tribunal has made such a clear and overwhelming judgement in UCU's favour. There are many different views within UCU and wider society about Israel and Palestine and this decision upholds our and others' right to freedom of expression and to continue to properly debate these and other difficult questions.
'This has been an extremely difficult period for the UCU staff and members involved in defending the union's position and I am especially pleased therefore that the Tribunal found our witnesses to be careful and accurate.
'The claimant, while unsuccessful, of course had the right to challenge the union in the courts and will be treated with respect within the union as will his views on this question. Now that a decision has been made I hope in turn that he, and others who share his views, will play an active part in the union and its debates rather than seek recourse to the law.
'For our part, UCU will look at our own processes to see if improvements can be made in line with the advice given to us within the decision. We remain opposed to discrimination of any kind including anti-Semitism and we will work with energy and determination with all who will work with us to oppose it in the workplace and society at large.'