Concerns have been raised with Labour’s general secretary and director of human resources by the Unite the Union party staff branch that says “due process appears to have broken down” with the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn.
The branch sent the letter last week on behalf of party staff members particularly in Labour’s governance and legal unit (GLU), which is responsible for handling complaints until they may be referred to the national executive committee.
It says party staff have been left “feeling very uncertain about the integrity of our processes” by the process of suspending the former Labour leader that was “apparently not done using the formal GLU system and structures”.
Keir Starmer has said that he did not take the decision to suspend Corbyn himself and it was taken independently by David Evans. But some have criticised this process, as they say the general secretary also counts as “political interference”.
Before adding that this has been “upsetting for staff who have to uphold such a system and need to have faith that it is applied fairly and consistently”, the letter also says the suspension being quickly announced to the media was “unacceptable”.
Asked for comment on the contents of the Unite staff branch letter, a Labour Party spokesperson told LabourList: “All complaints are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”
Corbyn was suspended on Thursday after he issued a statement describing “one antisemite” in Labour as “too many” but adding that “the scale” of Labour antisemitism was “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”.
A Labour spokesperson announced almost three hours after his statement that he was suspended from the party pending investigation and had the whip withdrawn “[in] light of his comments… and his failure to retract them subsequently”.
Another “due process” concern has been raised over emails being “sent from parts of the organisation that should not be involved in the complaints and legal process of the party”, specifically from the leader’s office digital team.
According to the letter, an email was sent from Keir Starmer aides to regional staff about monitoring the social media of party members and about logging and dealing with complaints, but GLU staff were unaware of it.
The letter also asks for clarity on the future of current staff who are permanent employees of the party as a new independent complaints process is introduced following the recommendation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The Unite branch has sought confirmation that GLU staffers “are not at risk of losing their roles” and that those employees and workplace unions will be “fully engaged and involved from the very beginning of any structural changes”.
All candidates in the Labour leadership election earlier this year pledged to implement an independent process, and this is a compulsory move following the publication of the final EHRC report on Labour antisemitism.
Labour has been served with an unlawful act notice on the basis of the statutory investigation. The party has six weeks – until December 10th – to produce an action plan to the EHRC in response to the findings and recommendations.