Trade Unions

UCU UCL Backs Sean Wallis

We received this information in the comments, in a post below

At a general meeting of UCL UCU yesterday, at which over 60 members were present, we unanimously passed the resolution below.

Vanessa Freedman
Hebrew & Jewish Studies Librarian

UCL UCU notes

1. That a report has appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz alleging anti-semitism in comments made by UCL UCU branch secretary, Sean Wallis, in a personal capacity, at a fringe meeting at UCU Congress 2009.

2. That UCU delegates voted en bloc in line with branch policy at UCU Congress, including in relation to our position on any putative Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions.

3. That unfounded allegations have the potential to intimidate and damage this union and its members.

UCL UCU believes

1. That anti-semitism, clearly defined as racism against Jews, must be opposed in exactly the same terms as any other racist ideology, namely, on the basis that an injury to one is an injury to all.

2. That trade union and academic freedom entails the right of members to adopt contrary positions, and to debate international issues on their merits, free from threat of legal action or libel.

3. That this particular allegation of anti-semitism is without foundation.

UCL UCU affirms that Sean Wallis has an impeccable reputation not just as a trade union activist and democrat but also as a consistent opponent of racism in all of its forms, including opposition to anti-semitism.

UCL UCU resolves

1. To stand by our branch secretary and against any witch-hunt of him.

2. To call on the National Executive Committee of UCU publicly to register its support for this union officer in all relevant publications, and to condemn the unfounded campaign being waged against him.

This is very interesting to know.

We still have had no explanation of what Sean Wallis meant when he reportedly “said that the campaign to boycott Israeli academics had been threatened by lawyers backed by those with “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.” “

The official position of UCU UCL is, apparently, that this had nothing to do with the financial power of rich Jews, nor with the conspiracy theory that the Lehman Brothers collapse was connected to $400 billion that had been squirrelled away to Israel and which could not now be found.

It is possible of course that Sean Wallis has an explanation for these words – which in his many responses he has not denied saying – which has nothing to do with racist stereotypes of powerful rich Jews and their ill gotten gains. I really have no way of telling because Sean Wallis has provided us with no explanation at all on this point, other than to deny that any racist meaning could be divined from his words.

So, what is the point of this motion, without any explanation of the words in question at all?

What we do have is this:

That trade union and academic freedom entails the right of members to adopt contrary positions, and to debate international issues on their merits, free from threat of legal action or libel.

Well, that is fascinating. The point here is that, if a union proposes to take illegal action, outlawed under the United Kingdom’s anti-race discrimination laws, that it would be improper for legal action to be taken to restrain that unlawful conduct.

Is this really the view of UCL UCU? Would UCL UCU object to an employee suing UCL or any other university if it engaged in race discrimination? Or is it only concerned when the potential defendant is the Union, and its SWP-captured executive? Is the thinking that an SWP member – whatever they say, and whatever they do – could never be considered to be a racist, because racism is something that only right wingers can be guilty of?

Or has Sean Wallis provided an explanation of his words which explain why theorising about powerful rich Jews trying to undermine the Union with Lehman Brothers cash is not, prima facie, an antisemitic thing to say.

Sean Wallis refuses to clear this up. I think it is because he has no explanation, and that he knows he has no explanation. So he is trying to bluster his way out of trouble.

Perhaps it will work.

UPDATE – also at Engage