Unite the Union's Faith Workers' Branch and Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA) is investigated by two of its leading officers for race and religious harassment and discrimination
Revd Dr David Isiorho and Pandit Satish Sharma @thebritishhindu
More information on this story can be viewed at: https://unitefaithworkers.com/
Over the last couple of years, we as Church of England Christian clergy and non-Christian faith leaders in the Unite the Union Faith Workers' Branch, have been on a shocking and painful journey together into the dark heart of the abuse of religious and political power, and brutal victimisation of us as whistleblowers of this abuse.
Our journey brings together frightening strands of clergy abuse of the vulnerable, and its attempted cover-up at the highest levels of the Church, together with appalling racial and religious discrimination against black and Asian clergy. Our shared experience of being brutalised as whistleblowers of safeguarding violations and institutional racism and discrimination, has bound us together as brothers - white and black, Christian and non-Christian, and made us all the more determined to speak out and expose the evil that we have suffered.
Harassment of Whistleblowers of Abuse by the Church of England and the Church of England Clergy Advocates
Both of us have been Executive Committee Members of the Unite Faith Workers' Branch (FWB), the clergy union division of Unite the Union. Out of the two of us, Revd Dr David Isiorho has served on the FWB Executive for almost 30 years, and up until his recent resignation was the Secretary. Pandit Satish Sharma, is a Hindu cleric and teacher, and heads up the subgroup within the FWB, the Association of Hindu Faith Workers.
Our story unfolded in the first instance on the very pages of the Church of England Newspaper when, in July 2019, our comrade and friend, the Muslim theologian, Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, published two brave and articulate pieces on the ruthless culture in both the Church of England and Muslim leadership bodies of bullying, harassment and sexual abuse, which articles received widespread acclaim from the abuse survivor community and legal experts.
In retaliation, Anglican officials at Church House complained and criticised Muhammad Al-Hussaini's articles on institutional abuse and bullying, to Peter Hobson, Chair of Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA), the Anglican subgroup of the FWB. Hobson, who is Treasurer of the FWB then took it upon himself to publish a statement in the Church of England Newspaper in August 2019 which distanced itself from Al-Hussaini's articles, and he untruthfully presented it as a statement which he published "On behalf of the Executive of the FWB of Unite". But Hobson did this act against both the Chair of the Faith Workers' Branch, Canon Stephen Trott, and over the head of myself, David Isiorho, the Branch Secretary.
Hobson, who is Treasurer of the FWB then took it upon himself to publish a statement in the Church of England Newspaper in August 2019 which distanced itself from Al-Hussaini's articles, and he untruthfully presented it as a statement "On behalf of the Executive of the FWB of Unite". But Hobson did this act against both the Chair of the Faith Workers' Branch, Canon Stephen Trott, and over the head of myself, David Isiorho, the Branch Secretary.
Canon Stephen wrote to myself and Members of the Executive stating that he was already very concerned at what he called a "vendetta" being perpetrated against Muhammad by another Member who is currently the subject of multiple complaints of sexual abuse and harassment under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, and this latest victimisation of an abuse survivor was the last straw. Stephen expressed his frustration at the difficulties he had experienced over a long time with trying to bring religious equality and diversity to the FWB Executive. He resigned on principle in protest at this mistreatment of our colleague and institutional discrimination within the Faith Workers' Branch.
Takeover of the Unite Faith Workers' Branch and Racial-Religious Discrimination
Stephen's departure led to the takeover of the Faith Workers' Branch by Ruth Oates as Acting Chair, a strong ally of Hobson. Together with the backing of other white clergy Members of the Faith Workers' Branch Executive the direction of the Branch changed radically, and the nightmare began for both of us, David as the Black Theologian and Secretary, and also for Satish as Hindu cleric.
Over the next few months from September 2019 onwards, we as black Afro-Caribbean and Asian clergy experienced a cascade of discrimination and undermining which included repeated last minute unilateral removal by the chair of our equalities items from the written and published agenda of meetings, and exclusion of the black Secretary from decision making. Through all of 2020, the self-organisation of the Hindu subgroup was repeatedly blocked on false and discriminatory grounds and delayed, as was Satish's appointment to the Executive Committee as its only Hindu representative. Our experience of political manoeuvring, gross dishonesty and bullying has left ourselves and our colleagues deeply injured and exhausted.
We thereafter have instituted legal proceedings against Unite the Union and its Unite Faith Workers' Branch in relation to this racial and religious discrimination and victimisation.
More recently, a bogus internal Unite "mediation/review" was fabricated by the Unite Legal Department solicitor, Neil Gillam, under the deceitful pretence of its being wholly external and independent, and whose main outcome was not to challenge this egregious institutional racism and discrimination, but rather to capitulate and collude with it - and recommend that the Faith Workers' Branch effectively be broken up apartheid-like on religious/denominational lines. In addition, instead of protecting the legal right under Section 27 of the Equality Act 2010 of British Citizens to whistleblow about alleged discrimination, Unite officials have attempted to silence us.
In disgust at this sham, and continued undermining of his position as a black Secretary, David resigned from his office.
Corruption of the Unite Complaints Process and Victimisation of Whistleblowers
We filed formal complaints about our appalling treatment. In response, Unite regional officer, Vince Passfield, conducted what can only be described as a wilfully fake investigation in which he did not review any documentation nor did he even bother to contact any of the complainants. He did though admit he had been in extensive communication with the other side. Our complaints in this sham process next went up to Paresh Patel, Unite regional officer. Months later our complaints are still not processed and resolved and repeatedly excuses are made to delay.
Instead, in the meantime, we each received a threatening "complaint letter" from a Harish Patel, national officer of Unite the Union, claiming to be acting for totally anonymous complainants whom he has repeatedly refused to identify, making generalised allegations for which he has repeatedly refused to provide any evidence - threatening us for speaking out about discrimination in our lawful "protected acts" under section 27 of the Equality Act. Haresh Patel has "fast tracked" this complaint against us.
We are accused of the following:
Damaging and false accusations against the Faith Workers Branch and its officers in public;
Spreading of confidential information in public;
Publicly revealing people’s names and trade union membership in public;
A direct attack on the Faith Workers Branch in a public arena.
These very broad allegations have been made without any evidence to support them. Despite our repeatedly asking him, Harish Patel has refused to particularise, offer any evidence whatsoever or - most seriously of all - identify the complainants whom we strongly suspect are the very same persons involved in criminal harassment and stalking of our colleagues, and who are now the subject of legal process. We have notified Harish Patel that his actions may therefore amount to criminal harassment by proxy for these said abuse perpetrators.
In response, David resigned his membership of the Unite the Union after nearly 30 years serving on the national Faith Workers Branch Executive committee.
Furthermore, we have been growingly concerned about the casual disregard for the equal treatment of members by all. In the Unite Rule Book, it is clearly stated that inclusivity is a core value. We have personally witnessed this discrimination in action and have suffered from it ourselves. Now, to have unfounded accusations flung at us brings this union journey with Unite to an end. We have completely lost faith in FWB and can no longer jeopardise our integrity by supporting such dishonest and un-Christian behaviour.
Unite the Union's Track Record of Racial and Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
It is important to note the public record of Unite the Union has been one of Neil Gillam and the Unite Legal Department losing major Court cases pertaining to sexual harassment and racial discrimination, including bullying and victimisation of whistleblowers of antisemitism. Unite has been ordered by the Courts to pay millions of pounds in compensation, and our own lawyers advise us about the reputation of the Unite Legal Department for ruthless tactics.
To make it perfectly clear, we refute any allegations of wrongdoing, and remain totally determined stand for and speak out the truth to corrupted power, even when it is trying to silence our whistleblowing. We pay tribute to our excellent clergy colleagues, both white and black, who have stood with us, and we are unafraid and we will with God's help, prevail.