Leaked messages from a campus unions group chat containing BUCU committee members appear to dismiss Guild President Josh Williams’ statement on racism within campus unions, referring to it as ‘trite’

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Images by Gordon Griffiths

On the 8th June, Williams posted on Facebook that he believed that the ‘University of Birmingham Trade Unions have a problem with race.’

He explained: ‘the racial undertone of the abuse I have received throughout this year has turned me away from wanting to engage in either Birmingham UCU or Birmingham Unison again.’

In response to Williams’ Facebook post on Wednesday, the Birmingham University College Union (BUCU) committee released a statement acknowledging that ‘some may have had experiences with our branch that reflect racist attitudes and beliefs, whether conscious or otherwise.’

Redbrick then received leaked WhatsApp messages from a group chat that undermine BUCU’s statement. The group chat is comprised of various members of campus unions, including BUCU committee members.

One message, sent by a member of committee,  stated that it ‘would be completely legitimate to ignore [Williams].’

The message calls Williams’ Facebook post the ‘mumblings of a fairly confused seeming person,’ describing it as ‘trite’ and ‘self-pitying.’

More than anything I’m just disappointed. I was so relieved to see my experiences taken seriously and acted upon swiftly

They also allege that the post was written as a ‘vehicle for his liberal, anti-socialist politics, which tells working people regardless of gender identity, migrant status, colour, or sexual orientation, to get back in the gutter.’

In response, Williams told Redbrick: ‘More than anything I’m just disappointed. I was so relieved to see my experiences taken seriously and acted upon swiftly. However, now I’m led to believe that this was all just blatant virtue signalling.’

‘During the Black Lives Matter protests, I have said time and time again that silence is betrayal. For the committee to turn a blind eye to the disgusting comments that have been made, simply put, makes them complicit.’

He also said that ‘just like any other individual in an elected position or within our campus, those involved need to be held accountable.’

BUCU have commented on the leaked messages. They said: ‘As with any organisation at present, we openly acknowledge that more needs to be done to address concerns around race and racism. The Committee has published a statement on racism within the branch.’

We are committed to treating any allegations of racism seriously

David Bailey, co-chair of the organisation, explained that ‘All Committee members are entirely behind this statement, including the member quoted.’

‘I have now spoken to the Committee and I acknowledge that while mistakes may have been made in our discussion of this matter we are committed to treating any allegations of racism seriously.’

The university’s branch of Unison has also issued a statement on Williams’ original post. They wrote: ‘Our union branch’s standards and ethics are to support all, challenge inequalities and speak up for those that cannot use their voice. We are not ignorant to the facts that we have got lots wrong and to hear the hurt that has been caused as a result.’

Responding to the leaked BUCU messages, Mike Moore, UNISON branch secretary, told Redbrick: ‘We’ve reflected deeply on this and it has spurred us all to think about how our branch campaigns on this and connects with our black members. All trade union branches should expect and welcome criticism about their approach to race, but if anyone does have specific complaints or concerns about specific incidents we would encourage them to contact us.’

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