“Victimised unionist” accuses Queen Mary bosses of dragging out case

A suspended university employee who believes he was targeted for his union activities has accused his bosses of dragging his case out.

Vik Chechi – Unison branch secretary and active leader of the movement against cutbacks and tuition fee hikes – was removed from his post at Queen Mary, University of London in October and says the management have not stuck to rules stating disciplinary cases should be completed within 20 days.

Mr Chechi, other unionists and student supporters say his role as a campaigner impacted on his suspension.

He said: “The situation has been dragged out over such a long period that it leaves me in a completely unstable position. This is union victimisation.”

A petition demanding his reinstatement has acquired more than 400 signatures.

Mr Chechi, 25, who worked at the Whitechapel-based Centre of the Cell education centre, is on a fixed-term contract which comes up in July.

He added: “It seems like they are presenting a business case not to renew my contract.”

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Queen Mary’s University and College Union said Mr Chechi’s Unison role appeared to be the reason for his suspension.

A spokesman said: “One of the stated reasons was the alleged raising of a ‘vexatious collective grievance’ on behalf of Unison members. Actually, at the time of his suspension, that grievance was still being investigated. Branding it ‘vexatious’ pre-judged the outcome and made it clear that Mr Chechi was being suspended for duties undertaken in the line of his union work.”

Student Ross Speer, of the university’s Stop the Cuts movement, said: “We think that the reasons for his suspension relate to his principled stance of resistance to unfair and unnecessary tuition fee rises, education cuts and job losses.”

Campaigners say the suspension means Mr Chechi is unable to carry out his union duties properly.

Queen Mary human resources director, Chris Pearson said the university could not discuss individual cases but said Mr Chechi has not “in any way been barred from his role as a representative of Unison”.