Matt Wardman writes:
[Update 12/5/2009: I have spoken to USDAW and can clarify the following two points:
1 – The Out of Court Offer that has been made is a comprehensive offer of settlement for all matters including unpaid wages and all other matters in dispute.
2 – The Employment Tribunal hearing is formally “suspended” not “cancelled”. This preserves the option of continuing the case should the settlement offer not prove acceptable to all staff involved.
USDAW are now starting a process of consultation with all 32 people in the Employment Tribunal action; the hearing this week only included a small number of test cases.]
Breaking news is that the Employment Tribunal relating to staff of the former SPCK Bookshop Chain has been cancelled, as the Interim Manager has offered an Out of Court settlement, which is likely to be accepted.
I am told that the settlement is likely to be acceptable to USDAW, who have fought a year-long Industrial Tribunal claim against the multi-headed hydra of several organisations created by J Mark Brewer and his brother Philip on behalf of bullied, victimised, sacked, and unpaid staff.
This is a direct result of the imposition of an Interim Manager by the Charity Commission, which in turn is a direct result of complaints submitted by campaigning bloggers and others committed to scrutinising the exploitation and mismanagement of the chain by the Brewer Brothers, detailing information that had been discovered over a period of months by a wide network. These complaints happened as far back as last August (2008).
It is also a direct result of a campaign of accurate reporting, initially by Dave Walker, but then by dozens of blogs (including my Wardman Wire site) which have discovered information, documented abuses, exposed lies (and probable perjury), and kept on going regardless.
I am hopeful that the fact that the charity is now controlled by the Charity Commission rather than the modern version of Shyster, Flywheel, and Shyster means that payments will be made of unpaid wages going back the best part of two years. Based on information I have picked up over the last months, there are quite substantial sums involved, well into six figures.[Update for clarity: I mean total sums, and I quote claims for “unpaid wages going back over 2 years” to illustrate that significant numbers are involved. ]
Special acknowledgements are due to the legal team at USDAW for dealing with a monstrously complicated case, and the staff who kept on fighting. It is also a victory for blog campaigners and fellow travellers who knitted it all together, especially Dave mentioned above and my colleague at SPCK/SSG News and Information, Phil Groom, and Unity at Ministry of Truth.
Several important aspects of the SPCK case – compensation to one significant group of staff for lost wages, and possibly bullying and victimisation – will have been resolved if this goes through, so we can have a big party. And some ex-staff can take a well-deserved holiday when the money comes through.
Onwards and Upwards
All this, that still leaves:
- Staff that are not in the tribunal.
- Staff wages, pensions, national insurance contributions are lost in the Texan fog somewhere.
- And of course all the other trusts and entities, American setups, shop companies, missing money.
- And then someone will have to continue rebuilding as many viable independent bookshops as possible to pick up the threads.
- The whole matter of bringing J Mark and Phil Brewer to legal account for their actions, if possible.
The next big immediate issue is bookshops still controlled by the Messrs Brewer, such as Durham and Chichester. The instruction to leave Durham is for 2010, and the loss of any contribution to the cathedral from the shop for 2007-8 (which vanished into the fake bankruptcy proceedings) or 2009-10 (which may or may not appear) may cost the cathedral 50k-100k ukp. That’s my estimate based on rough figures I have picked up along the way for past contributions. And there is still the small question of where the $542k transferred from SSG to Brewer organisations and the $165k taken out of the Durham Cathedral Bookshop ended up.
Considerable monies ($35k+) have also gone missing from the Chichester Shop via suspcious routes in the 12 month period revealed by the sworn bankruptcy documents.
I hope that the suppliers (who are owed most of the $1.6m debts declared accurately in the fake bankruptcy, when J Mark Brewer forgot to mention the 1.5m ukp of freehold assets in the business and was instructed to take remedial education in Legal Ethics) will now be able to take action. Maybe – even better – the Charity Commission will begin to look into these questions next.
Score an eventual two out of two for Lilliput on the Employment Tribunal issues. Now we need to keep going until we reach 10 on all the rest.
I’m off to write another Press Release.