Tag Archives: Brewers

Durham Cathedral Staff Tribunal Starts

Our thanks to Valiant For Truth for bringing to our attention that in The Journal Newspaper yesterday there was an article of great import to those who frequent this site,

Durham Cathedral Bookshop Staff Launch Legal Fight

This in many ways marks the official start of Durham Staff in their fight for Justice against the Brewer Brothers and their tactics of playing fast and loose with employment law and the rights of workers to be treated fairly and dismissed in a right way.

However Durham Cathedral itself via their trading arm are also in the dock as it were, again something that may not come as any great surprise to readers of this blog who have at times been dismayed, upset and hurt by some of the Cathedrals inactions and actions throughout the saga.

The article begins by saying:

CATHEDRAL bosses could become embroiled in a complex legal fight after bookshop staff launched tribunal proceedings.

Six workers at Durham Cathedral’s bookshop are seeking compensation after their employment was allegedly terminated when the shop unexpectedly closed on January 22 this year.

But confusion has arisen over who is potentially liable for any payouts and proceedings have been listed against several different companies, including the cathedral’s trading arm, Durham Cathedral Trading Ltd.

The article then goes on to say:

Miss Jeram, representing the Trust, (inserted clarification for blog readers – that’s SSGCT) said: “There are a number of uncertainties. There has been a great deal of confusion right from the beginning over their employer.

“The only issues can be who the employer was immediately prior to the closing of the bookshop and who the employer was at any time after that, in the period between January 22 and March 1.

“We’ve got to consider whether the claims should be struck out against the first respondent. At some point after June 2007 and before July 2008 it is my understanding that the Brewers attempted to wind up SSG LLC in Houston. After that time their employer could not have been SSG so it would have become the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company.”

Claims against employers involve redundancy pay, unfair dismissal, breach of contract and unpaid work.

Sara Brody, representing the staff on behalf of shop workers union Usdaw at the hearing, argued the Trust should remain on the list of potential employers.

She said: “The claimants believe the Trust was their employer throughout, so their primary claim is against the Trust.”

Last year Durham cathedral bosses served SSG notice to vacate the shop, the last in the UK to be involved with the Trust, by May of this year.

Again these issues as raised are nothing new to anyone aquainted with this situation, previous tribunal actions and this blog.

So again we would ask that anyone who has any information, paperwork or correspondence of any sort that could help USDAW and the Durham staff to clear up the issue of employers please do get in touch with them directly.  Anything that demonstrates who people believed they were doing business with or indeed were doing business with during the time frames mentioned can all help in proving who the employers were and give credence to the staffs perception of employer, so please do get in touch with USDAW and offer your help to them in making sure justice is again done.

As always our thoughts are with those involved in this action and we hope for a swift and just outcome for the Staff at Durham.

Chichester: The Door is Shut. Only Durham remains.

Matt Wardman writes:

These are two photos cross-posted from the ASingleBlog site. The former-SPCK Bookshop in Chichester has been closed on the instructions of the Charity Commission.

This is sad, and yet it means that – exactly as per the takeover of the SPCK-SSG charity by the Charity Commission Interim Manager – those trying to resolve this are now dealing with people of integrity, so we can at least say that Chichester is now on the way out of the swamp.

So the Brewer cash-generating, personal-expenditure subsidising, money-grubbing, supplier-swindling, staff-bullying, legality-avoiding (e.g., lack of required liability insurance), asset-stripping, and Durham Cathedral brand-poisoning, activities can now only be carried on in the Durham Cathedral Bookshop.

Every day that the Brewer-boys retain control of that shop provides a further opportunity for abuse.

Will someone in authority please finish the job?

Here are the Chichester Photos:

20090901-spck-chichester-door-and-notice1

20090901-spck-chichester-door-and-notice2


Is this the ‘Best Use of New Media in a Christian Campaign’?

David Keen writes:

The ‘Bloggies’ – Christian Web and New Media awards – are now open for nominations. I’ve taken the liberty of nominating this blog for ‘Best Use of New Media in a Christian Campaign’.

Phil’s blog is very much the hub of the SPCK campaign, but there’s much more going on. Many of us who are involved have never met face to face, but through blogs, email, Facebook, online petitions, Google Groups, and even Twitter we’ve built a network of supporters from several countries, and in the last 2 weeks there has been a mini-avalanche of remarkable results from the pressure that the campaign has brought to bear:

  • Durham Cathedral have served notice on the Brewers to leave the premises
  • The Charity Commissioners have taken control of the assets of the Society of St. Stephen the Great.
  • Following the CC action, an out of court settlement with unfairly dismissed staff may now be possible
  • and Dave Walker is back to blogging about the SPCK story. Mark Brewers initial ICBM (inter-continental bullying manoevre) seems to have backfired spectacularly in the intervening 10 months. Welcome back Dave.

I have a slight quibble about the Bloggies, in that anyone using new media effectively will, hopefully, be using more than one website to do it. The online SPCK campaign – which effectively began as Dave Walker’s ‘Save the SPCK’ campaign on The Cartoon Blog – has diversified into several ‘new media’ as it has evolved. Any campaign simply using one platform probably shouldn’t get past first base!

If you’d like to nominate the SPCK/SSG campaign too, please do! Here’s what I put in the ‘additional information’ box:

A campaign to scrutinise and hold to account the new owners of SPCK bookshops, which recently resulted in decisive action by both the Charity Commissioners and Durham Cathedral. The campaign provides a discussion space, as well as a focus for scrutiny and lobbying.      

Use of new media includes

- Several blogs, of which the named blog is the key one. With the censorship of Dave Walkers blog, it’s been important to have several blogs reporting the story, so that ‘divide and rule’ through legal threats won’t work.  The reposting on over 70 blogs of material which the new SPCK owners attempted to censor was vital both in building a public profile, and in demonstrating support for those victimised by the new owners.
- Online petitions
- Facebook: there are two related groups on Facebook, which give the campaign an online mailing list of around 600 people, as well as a forum for spreading information.
- Google groups, as a forum for the leaders of the campaign to communicate and share information.
- more recently, Twitter.

Many of those involved in the campaign haven’t met face to face, but new media has enabled us to network, co-ordinate our efforts, and spread information to a wide group of people.

David Keen blogs at St. Aidan to Abbey Manor, and has just joined the team on SPCK/SSG News, Notes and Info.

Fun on the Buses: Slogan Competition

Phil Groom writes:

It’s amazing what you see on the roads in London these days:

There probably won't be any bookshops - there certainly wasn't a bankruptcy

There probably won't be any bookshops - there certainly wasn't a bankruptcy

There probably won't be any bookshops if we leave them to the Brewers

There probably won't be any bookshops if we leave them to the Brewers

Courtesy of the Atheist Bus Slogan Generator:
can you come up with anything better?

ruletheweb.co.uk/b3ta/bus | tinyurl.com/bus-slogan

Rescuing Chichester’s Christian Bookshop: New Petition Launched

Phil Groom writes:

Yesterday morning we launched a new petition addressed to the Bishop and Diocese of Chichester: Rescuing Chichester’s Christian Bookshop. By midmorning 25 people had signed; by yesterday evening that number had more than doubled, and as with the Durham petition, my intention is to submit the petition to the Bishop whenever a multiple of 50 signatures is reached… so the first copy will be winging its way to him very soon.

Here’s the full text of the petition:

We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishop of Chichester and the Diocese of Chichester to rescue this once outstanding bookshop, previously part of the SPCK chain, from the control of Philip and Mark Brewer and their changing series of organisations (St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust / St Stephen the Great Limited and now Chichester Shop Management Co). 

The Brewers took control of this bookshop, of the entire SPCK Bookshop chain, with fine sounding words, but actions always speak louder than words: the former Chichester SPCK Bookshop is now but a shadow of its former self. Due to the failure of the Brewers to honour invoices for goods received, suppliers have been left high and dry at a time of recession; and the shelves stood empty until recently when stock was brought in from the former SPCK shop in Norwich, which has now been rescued by the local community in Norwich. 

St Olave’s in Chichester has a claim to be the oldest building in the city, yet is in a desperate state of repair. It was set up through covenant to provide information for the community, yet advertising anything that Philip Brewer considers contrary to the so-called ‘Orthodox’ aims of the charity is banned. Mark Brewer has claimed ownership of St Olave’s Church and has announced plans to turn it into an Orthodox place of worship. These men have abused staff, treated covenants and UK employment law with contempt, disregarded debts to their suppliers, fabricated a bankruptcy filing in the USA Courts and blatantly bullied anyone who has stood in their way: it ill-behoves the Diocese of Chichester to play host to them and their presence here casts a shadow over the mission of the wider church. 

Enough is enough: we urge you to take decisive action now to rescue this shop and St Olave’s Church from further depredation. We call upon you to step in, and to remove these men who are bringing Chichester’s Christian heritage into disarray and disrepute. We urge you, please: take back control of this building. It would be better for the shop to be closed than allowed to carry on in its current state. Then, as we see happening elsewhere around the country, people will be free to work together to create something new and bring light to this community. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the shop, you’ll find some information and photos here:

For information about the Brewers’ changing companies and their fabricated bankruptcy filing, see this post, Who are the ENC Management Company? — as cited in the USA Bankruptcy Court motions for dismissal of Mark Brewer’s case.

For information about their contemptuous disregard for UK employment law, refer to Usdaw, who have been fighting for justice on behalf of some thirty former employees (we hope to have more information about yesterday’s Case Management Discussion soon).

Finally for now, proof that those who are determined can break free of the Brewers: Norwich’s new Christian Resource Centre opens its pearly gates.

So please, if you share the concerns expressed, head on over there today and sign this petition. Let’s send a very clear message to

  1. The Bishop and Diocese of Chichester, that we will stand with them in taking whatever action is necessary to Rescue Chichester’s Christian Bookshop from further depredation;
  2. The Chichester Bookshop staff, that we stand with them and support them;
  3. The suppliers who have been robbed, that we share their distress;
  4. The Brewers, that their business practices are not welcome.

I could say more — much more! — but I’ll leave that to you: comments may be left on the petition and here.

Still in the Dark over Pensions

Diary Update
Scheduled for this Thursday, Dec 11th, 4pm: Employment Tribunals Case Management Discussion. See the Diary page for more info.

Phil Groom writes:

We’ve been raising questions about Pensions for some time now, but still seem to be largely whistling in the dark. The most recent discussions have been in the comments thread on Matt Wardman’s article, Durham Cathedral Shop Finances and questionable Saint Stephen the Great payments

Previous posts include:

Now, however, following a recent enquiry from a concerned former bookshop employee, Usdaw’s Legal Department have commented that they “are also having difficulty getting information out of the Church of England Pension Board.”

The problem, Usdaw say, appears to be that whilst the Brewers have paid some contributions, they have failed to provide the information needed about the staff that were in the pension scheme. Missing details include such things as the dates when people left SSG, which makes it difficult for the Pensions Board to work out what contributions should have been paid and correlate this with what has been paid. This seems to tie in with the Pension Board’s recently noted requests for copies of some workers’ payslips.

The situation is exacerbated, of course, by the Brewers ongoing failure to respond to enquiries. Usdaw have provided the Pensions Board with as much information as possible about Usdaw members but any non-Usdaw members who were in the pension scheme would be wise to contact the Pensions Board themselves.

Meanwhile, I’m sure Usdaw would love to hear from anyone who can help them fill in the gaps in their information.

Useful Contacts

Not So Useful Contacts

 


From Salisbury to York

It’s that advert I’m talking about. The one spotted by Matt Wills in Salisbury, calling for volunteers to join

the UK’s most successful Church and Bookshop Charity. – Saint Stephen the great/SPCK bookshops.

A friend tells me they’re also using it in York, although apparently they’ve at last had the decency to take down the SPCK signage from over the door. 

I still haven’t entirely made up my mind whether the Brewers’ behaviour stems from arrogance, malice or sheer stupidity. Probably an unfortunate combination of all three, but whatever the case, if you’re the praying type, please spare a prayer for any unfortunate souls who may decide to respond to the adverts. I can’t think of a worse way to be introduced to the world of Christian bookselling…

Golden Orb Weaver Spider feasts on a finch

Golden Orb Weaver Spider feasts on a Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin Finch

And I’m sure continuing prayers would be appreciated by those unfortunate enough to be caught up in the tangled web the Brewers have wrapped around Durham Cathedral Bookshop. They’re probably feeling rather like this poor finch that found its way into the press this week.

Quite why the Dean & Chapter of Durham haven’t invoked the termination clause in the lease remains a mystery, but if anyone would like to become more closely involved on the Durham side, they’re still advertising for a new Chapter Clerk; not a bad salary, either…

Back to the tangled web, however:

As for the bird, Dr Atkinson said it probably died of fright, dehydration, or exhaustion from its entrapment, rather than direct spider attack. 

“However, it does appear that the spider has decided that good food shouldn’t go to waste and is therefore attempting to eat the bird, which I find entirely believable,” he said.

Looking at what remains of the bookshops, it seems a remarkably accurate assessment…