"This Simply Isn't True": A Reply to Brian Woodhead

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Sat, 13/05/2017 - 00:41,

Senior LU boss Brian Woodhead sent out an Employee Bulletin on Friday afternoon, which, despite its pathetic nod in the direction of appearing evenhanded (he "respects our choice" to vote for strike action, apparently!), was little more than a scurrilous piece of propaganda designed to peddle the management line in the London Bridge 3 case.

Let's break Brian's email down bit by bit...

Brian says: "The RMT is claiming that the employees involved in this case were intervening to stop a serious assault by a fare-dodger on other employees; that this was a violent attack and a pregnant colleague was punched during this incident."

This is false. RMT says that Kirsty Watts, a pregnant CSA, was pushed, not punched. This may seem like a subtle difference, but Brian is deliberately distorting matters to imply that the union is exaggerating or even fabricating events. In fact, the company itself - in recorded minutes from fact-findings and CDIs - acknowledges that Kirsty was pushed, and called for assistance.

Brian then says that he "invited the RMT General Secretary and [National] Executive Committee to view the extensive CCTV footage available in this case and other relevant material", going on to claim that the RMT NEC "didn't take up this offer". Brian is attempting to establish a narrative of union members being ordered into battle by generals who don't know, and don't want to know, the details of the case.

But this is simply a false picture. The RMT NEC has viewed the CCTV. Nothing they saw in it changed their assessment that the union is right to back Lee, Dave, and Saeed to the hilt.

Then comes a quite spectacularly disingenuous paragraph:

"I know some of you have asked why this CCTV footage hasn’t been made available more widely, so that everyone can view this and see what happened. We did consider this, but in light of the fact that the footage contains images of a number of employees and customers – including those not directly involved in this incident - we concluded that this wasn’t appropriate."

So, on the one hand, Brian wants to assure us how free he has been with the CCTV, inviting Mick Cash and the RMT NEC to view it, and claiming they haven't (even though they have). But on the other hand, Brian says that it's "not appropriate" to show the CCTV "more widely". A slight discrepancy.

But here's the real kicker, which many people reading Brian's email might not know and which Tubeworker encourages all our readers to spread far and wide: local management on the London Bridge Area have been showing the CCTV to members of staff... but only in the form of still frames. Many local staff have refused to view it; those that have say it doesn't change their opinion of the incident! Their solid strike on 7-8 May shows what they think of the issues.

So we have LU senior management claiming it's not "appropriate" to broadcast the CCTV, while local management displays what is effectively a director's cut of stills, which decontextualise the incident, to staff in the hope of dissuading them from striking.

Our employers are trying to play us for fools. LU is still maintaining its ridiculous line that the correct response would have been for Lee (who, let's remember, was being punched in the head) to step away and get out his iPad to file a "Workplace Anti-Social Behaviour" (WASB) report. Anyone who's ever worked on a gateline, or in any operational role where you come into contact with the public, can put themselves in Lee, Dave, and Saeed's (and, indeed, Kirsty's) shoes.

Brian goes on to "reassure" us that LU does "take a zero tolerance approach to violence against [staff]": patently this is untrue. Lee Cornell was punched twice in the head. He's been sacked. Zero-tolerance, Brian?

Brian's email ends by saying that LU's "internal disciplinary processes have been exhausted in this case and will not be re-opened, regardless of the outcome of the RMT’s ballot." Well, we've heard that before. We heard it in 2011, when LU sacked Eamonn Lynch. After a sustained campaign of union action, Eamonn (along with Arwyn Thomas) was reinstated. We've heard it in other reinstatement campaigns too. LU's "internal disciplinary processes" are only one channel to fight our case. Letting the company know how we feel about this injustice by withdrawing our labour is another.

Brian Woodhead claims RMT's take on the incident is false, but in reality it's his account which "simply isn't true".

Vote yes for strikes and action short when your ballot paper arrives, let's get Lee back on the job!

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