Since 18th October, Centre of the Cell's Widening Participation Officer, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) UNISON Branch Secretary and Trade Union Representative Vik Chechi has been suspended for 3 months from the Centre of the Cell workplace by Centre of the Cell management.
QMUL College's own HR Code of Practice on Discipline states that investigations into disciplinary cases shall 'begin with no unreasonable delay and will normally be completed within 20 days'. Suspension should also be reviewed every 20 days.
During the period leading up to Mr Chechi's suspension, Centre of the Cell and the College did not appear to follow its own Codes of Practice on dealing with issues such as lateness, but instead leapt straight to disciplinary procedures. This was driven by a concerted attempt to force out a Trade Union shop steward through surreptitious means to further facilitate a driving down in wages and terms and conditions in front line staff. Its noted that in the period leading up to Mr Chechi's suspension, he as Union Representative raised a collective grievance against Centre of the Cell management on behalf of 11 Centre of the Cell staff members - whom since 9 been forced out of the charity, including every single Trade Union member at Centre of the Cell. This was included as a 'vexatious collective grievance' in the charges against Mr Chechi. Since the investigation of that grievance was actually still ongoing, this charge apparently pre-determined its outcome by pre-emptively branding it 'vexatious'. Other charges include raising 'malicious and threatening' allegations against management - ignoring that these 'allegations' were raised as concerns on behalf of union members in the workplace on vital issues such as low pay and high workload.
This is totally unacceptable. Trade Unions have a legal right to operate in the workplace and brazen union busting will result in worse working conditions and lower productivity of the charity. Centre of the Cell has a mission towards reaching out to the most deprived in society - wide layers of the working class and such an attitude towards the official organisations of these people, the Trade Union is a clear contradiction. Also the suspension is on full pay, Centre of the Cell continues to lose a great amount of money through this entire process. A Temporary Outreach assistant is currently performing Mr Chechi's duties - creating a business model to justify not renewing Mr Chechi's fixed term contract in July as an employee could carry out his role for less money.
It is obvious that with this uncertainty and the threat of dismissal hanging over him, Mr Chechi is not well-placed to perform his trade union duties and activities to the best of his ability, despite his non-suspension from this role. It is intolerable to treat a campus trade unionist in this way at a time when management is implementing major restructuring involving significant numbers of redundancies across the College, where staff require maximal trade union involvement and support.
The constant delays in dealing with Mr Chechi's case reinforce the impression that a trade unionist is being unfairly victimised.
Please contact QMUL and Centre of the Cell management (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) promptly demanding to reinstate Mr Chechi and ensure that campus trade unionists are not subjected to victimisation and poor treatment in the future. Also sign the online petition (over 400 signatures) demanding reinstatement http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/reinstatevikchechi/ See below for press coverage on the issue and attached materials from previous protests and campaign meetings.
Centre of the Cell Trade Union Shop Steward
QMUL UNISON Branch Secretary