Brendan Ogle alleges colleague saw to him being ‘written out’ of Unite plans in Ireland

Trade unionist tells WRC it came as a great disappointment as he had considered the colleague a friend

Trade unionist Brendan Ogle has said it came as the “gravest disappointment” to him that a colleague he had considered a friend was allegedly seeing to it that he was “written out” of Unite’s plans for the Republic of Ireland.

His case under the Employment Equality Act 1998, in which he has accused the Unite trade union of discriminating against him on disability grounds by taking away his duties when he returned to work in 2022 after surviving a “very aggressive” cancer, is continuing at the Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin.

Mr Ogle’s evidence is that he was told by a colleague in Dublin, Tom Fitzgerald, that the union’s general secretary Sharon Graham wanted a new strategy for Ireland drawn up – and that she had made a “directive” that Mr Ogle was not to be included in it.

Mr Ogle said his line manager, former regional officer for Ireland Jackie Pollock, and a Unite human resources manager, Richard Griffiths, both expressed surprise at this suggestion.

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The complainant later attended a meeting in London with the general secretary’s “right-hand woman”, Gail Cartmail, he said, where any such directive was denied.

Mr Ogle told the tribunal that he had backed another candidate publicly for the role of general secretary, while Mr Fitzgerald had been a supporter of Ms Graham.

Ms Cartmail’s words to him were: “Sharon operates on the basis of loyalty,” Mr Ogle said.

He added that it was explained to him that the new general secretary “was very supportive to officers who supported her, and gave broad discretion to how those officers used her office and name to get the job done”.

Mr Ogle said he had “no reason” to question Ms Cartmail at the time as it was still “early in the process” and he was “optimistic of turning the situation around”.

“Your honestly-held belief is that a wide discretion has been given to Tom Fitzgerald,” Mark Harty SC, appearing for the trade union, asked the complainant.

“That’s my honestly-held belief,” Mr Ogle said.

“Why do you say Tom Fitzgerald has used this discretion to force you out?” Mr Harty said.

“I don’t know. It’s the source of the gravest disappointment to me, given our history, and what I had considered friendship,” he said.

“You asked me a question; are we close. We’re closer than close,” Mr Ogle said.

“You were never told you were to be written out of a strategy,” Mr Harty said to the complainant later.

“I absolutely was,” the complainant said.

Mr Fitzgerald is expected to give evidence on a future date.

Mr Ogle’s cross-examination has concluded and the case has been adjourned to two further dates in April, yet to be confirmed by the WRC, and is expected to last for five more days.

Ms Guinness said she was still reserving her position on a witness summons for the union’s general secretary, Ms Graham. The complainant side is now to write to the Unite general secretary asking her to attend and give evidence voluntarily before an order is sought compelling her to attend.

Mr Harty said the union would resist any such motion.

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