Wednesday, 15 December 2010

If one doesn't ask... one doesn't get

Listen my grey-feathered friend... you may be a UCU member but you're
not a member of the Business School so fuck off! 

Yesterday two identical bundles of documents were delivered to (i) a District Judge, and (ii) a Mr Ian Austin.  Mr Austin - formerly of Halliwells LLP now of Heatons LLP- is a busy man. For as well as sitting on University of Salford University Council as an independent member,(1) he is also acting under instruction from the University in the University's libel claim against my good self.(2) Mr Austin has kindly provided two signed witness statements to the Court so far.

Document disclosure #1 - The TCM Group Report

A letter was also included with the identical bundles requesting that the District Judge issue a document disclosure order for the full TCM Group report and its diminutive brethren, the TCM Executive Summary. Why? As many readers may be aware, I've asked on numerous occasions for the TCM Group report and a copy of the TCM Executive summary to no avail. Apparently it contains some interesting and rather juicy information on appointments and recruitment in the Salford Business School. It's been requested under Freedom of Information via whatdotheyknow by that Shannon chap and someone called Li Na where it's been both refused and in the case of Li Na's request, remains unanswered which according to the website means the University is in clear breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I've requested it from the President of my union branch OGL (Sheehy), who neatly ducked what promised to be a particularly treacly issue, passing it rather deftly into the hands of the local UCU regional officials. I asked the regional official for a copy. The gentleman simply referred me to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Unwittingly, I'd fallen headlong into a bureaucratically manufactured autosynchronous feedback loop reminiscent of the bastard progeny of the most nightmare-ish episode of the Twilight Zone and Groundhog Day. The regional official was I believe largely ignorant to the fact that I've not had much in the way of luck with my previous FOI requests to the UoS. Nevertheless, I'm glad I've kept paying my monthly subscriptions to the branch.

"Klaatu Barada Nikto" should get you a copy
And witness orders...

I've even had the temerity to ask an Employment Tribunal judge for a document disclosure order for it. The response of the judge was quite characteristic of previous requests for document and witness orders; such as the witness order for the extensive list of emails between Head of School John Wilson and lecturer Xiang Li. Yep, refused. I previously asked that the Tribunal grant a witness order for Head of School Professor John Wilson to give evidence. Also refused. I asked they grant a witness order so that Ms Li also appear and give evidence. Refused but I've become rather familiar with the theoretical concept of refusal.

History depleting itself...

Prior to the Disciplinary Hearing last year (2009), I did write to Head of School Wilson and Ms Li asking that they appear and give evidence. After all, I was accused of bullying and harassing them. You would think that as neither HoS Wilson or Ms Li made an official complaint of bullying against me, or provided two definitive witness statements to the investigating officer Scott Mulholland at least outlining the extent of my lampoon-based delinquency, that they would both be keen to appear at the Disciplinary Hearing and astound the panel with compelling personal testament to bolster the allegations against me? Oddly enough, they didn't. Mind you, Harloe and Hall also refused my personal invitation to appear and answer questions. Apparently writing about a couple of Vice Chancellors in the same Newsletters isn't deemed to be bullying or harassment in this alternative universe.

The bastard will never find it down here
But it was the vigour with which the University's lawyers (Eversheds for the ET) opposed the granting of this order that got me thinking and that's usually always a bad thing. What on earth is contained in this report that has so many people working overtime metaphorically speaking in order to restrict access to it? The big question is why doesn't OGL release the Executive Summary widely to UCU and UNISON members and UoS staff more widely? What on earth is stopping her? It's clearly in the interests of staff across the university to know what's in it... isn't it?

Technology - it's great isn't it?

Then I thought, "maybe she's slightly busy?" But then I thought "it wouldn't take long to say make fifty or so copies of the TCM Executive Summary and hand them out to members would it?" Then I thought "I bet the branch is broke and can't afford the exorbitant costs of making fifty photocopies?" If that's the case then I'd be happy to dip into my own depleted pocket to pay for the copying. Then I thought "maybe they could eschew one or two pre-EGM light luncheons to pay for it?" I quickly self-corrected as this was patently silly. Light lunches are important and there is after all, a few bob resting in the branch account and I can't think of a more worthwhile use of the branch's sizeable financial resources. If money or time is the issue, maybe she could scan one copy and email it as a PDF to all committee members who can then pass it down in an antithetical non-sustainable business model sort of arrangement to all staff.

Yet, Christmas is very nearly upon us and I'm sure more people are concerned about what to buy their loved ones for Christmas Day. I'm concerned about the post over the holiday period. I worry about nationalised industries all the time. So I thought I'd hurry off in today's post to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, my appeal against the decision of the Employment Tribunal judge not to grant the requested documents. With any luck the elusive documents and emails may be disclosed prior to the Employment Tribunal in March. If not I'm sure they'll be disclosed prior to or during any forthcoming libel trial.

Another hearing in all things deem'd calumnious, defamatory and libellous....

The University of Salford


the irksome Dr Gary Paul Duke

2 o'clock promptly before Judge Smith at Manchester District Registry
Tuesday, the 21st day of December 2010,
Manchester Civil Justice Centre
One Bridge Street West,

(1) University of Salford list of council members
(2)According to the University of Salford's own website, part 1.1.5 of University Statutes as approved by the Privy Council 21 July 2010 an " "Independent Member" means a member of the Council who is neither employed by nor a student of the University and who is considered by the Council to be otherwise independent and impartial."

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Registrar, a witness statement and a Court hearing

Signer of witness statements Dr Adrian Graves*

A snippet of hearty news arrived in the post yesterday (8th Dec). It was a witness statement with a highly significant signature affix't. That signature belonged to one Dr Adrian Graves. This witnesses statement lays out the basis for the University of Salford's allegations against one Mr Gary Duke ('tis I sir!). Contained within are claims that the aforementioned Mr Duke ('tis I again and a Dr to boot if you like sir!) has vilified and defamed them (senior types and others at UoS) to some fine tune on a website entitled The Rat Catchers of the Sewers. It is on record that this writer has neither confirmed nor denied involvement, a point made by us to the Judge at the previous hearing in order to correct a misapprehension held by the University's barrister.

Dr Graves' is an interesting statement on several levels none of which we can go into here for obvious reasons. The forthright claims made by Dr Graves in his statement will serve as the basis for a request by University lawyers that the Court grant them Norwich Pharmacal relief . This is an Order that requests Virgin Media Limited to provide account details of an IP address supplied to the UoS by Automattic Inc (the owners of Wordpress). The forthcoming hearing may prove enlightening and contentious.

When Wordpress folded

We might also add for clarification that the above information (an extensive list of IP addresses of contributors and 'posters', an email address and details of when the Rat Catchers of the Sewers account was created) was handed to the University of Salford US legal representatives by the CEO of Automattic Inc (Wordpress), Mr Toni Schneider. This was without being "required to do so by law" or a Court Order from the Californian courts. Below is a quote from Wordpess's Privacy Policy:

All those who have a Wordpress account may wish to take heed of this precedent. They might also take Schneider to task over this apparent breach of their own Privacy Policy. We wouldn't want Wordpress to find themselves in court answering to claims under the Californian version of the Trade Descriptions Act (if one exists).

In closing...

Given the content of Dr Graves' statement, which bears many striking similarities to a statement provided to the Court by Mr Ian Austin dated 27 October 2010, members of the public if not already titillated, may wish to recover from the dark cupboard corners their Thermos vacuum flasks, vintage Tupperware sandwich containers and large sponge hands and reserve their seats at the next round of legal proceedings.

Another hearing in all things deem'd calumnious, defamatory and libellous....

The University of Salford


Dr Gary Paul Duke

2 o'clock promptly before Judge Smith at Manchester District Registry
21st day of December 2010,
Manchester Civil Justice Centre
One Bridge Street West,

*Picture courtesy of the University of Salford sourced at

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Julian Assange - The Secrets of the Pharaohs (Part I)

Invoking the anger of the state machine

The BBC and other news sources reported last week that the disclosure website WikiLeaks had its domain closed. The Swiss Post Office and PayPal have frozen the accounts of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. On the basis of a belatedly (fortuitously?) produced arrest warrant from the entirely neutral Swedish prosecutor, Assange has appeared in front of the beak, been refused bail, and is now behind British bars. Acccording to whichever news source one reads, he has been accused of rape or sexual assault. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has hailed his arrest as 'good news'. This is a serious turn of events. Although WikiLeaks continues to release highly embarassing information courtesy of a Swiss server among others, it is clear that Western powers are seeking to use any means necessary to clamp down on the inalienable right of the global public to know.

I include myself among those vocal supporters of Freedom of Information. We should have the inalienable right to know what our governments, public bodies and public authorities are doing, saying and behaving (and spending our money on). However, there are many mechanisms these agencies can use in order to circumvent legislation. Moreover the nature of this wily thing called capitalism will always ensure that the very idea of 'freedom' is contingent and consummately flexible in its interpretation and implementation.

This chap' eyes have been redacted as they might pose a threat
to national security and put lives seriously at risk
They had a chestnut, it was old and they named it sexual harassment!

Despite Wikileaks going out of their way to prove they are 'responsible' in ensuring that the names of specific individuals named in the leaked documents have been redacted, for the major and middling powers, this is not enough. Between the five major news organisations that are working with WikiLeaks to release the information, the various organisations have embraced different mechanisms to ensure that individuals and sensitive details may be protected. Still the US government has refused to actively work with these organisations fearing that in so doing they are seen to condone the leaking and through this the wider cause of the information leakers. We should not be surprised that the exclusive club of Western capitalist interests are happy to use the old chestnut/weapon of smearing your opponent with allegations of sexual impropriety to gain advantage.

I can personally attest to how such a strategy can be pursued. Sexual harassment was one of the justifications used last year by the Executive Director of Human Resources for the University of Salford in order to gather evidence (investigate my computer) for possible use by the University in their investigation against me.(1)  There was of course absolutely no truth in their claim. This allegation was only discovered after documents had been released to me under a Subject Access Request in November 2009. Yet sexual harrassment is a very serious allegation to make and I was quite astonished that it could be bandied around so readily in order to justify the searching of my University email accounts and my University computer. I therefore have some sympathy with Mr Assange.

However, the WikiLeaks saga clearly highlights the inherent contradictions and stresses within liberalism and one of its principal ideological components, that of freedom of speech, thought and expression, demonstrating its limits when it comes up against the imperialist and profit-driven interests of global capitalism.

Wikileaks - Lenin with a laptop

There is an historical precedent for the publishing of secrets such as these and the reaction drawn from the West. Lenin and the Bolsheviks pursued a policy of publishing the secret treaty's of the Western powers in November 1917, drawing instant condemnation and military intervention from the West and its allies. Leon Trotsky was clear what these secret treaties represented:

"Secret diplomacy is a necessary tool for a propertied minority which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to subject it to its interests. Imperialism, with its dark plans of conquest and its robber alliances and deals, developed the system of secret diplomacy to the highest level."(2)

Julian Assange is no Lenin. Nor is he Julian Lenin. But his policy of exposure and expose brings into focus the interests of the political elites and the organs of the state who represent the organised collective national military and political interests of the major corporations. The storm of protest from government and the US state department, the cyber attacks being daily visited upon WikiLeaks, and the smears and use of the state legal apparatus against Assange demonstrates that they will use any means to halt the public exposure of private business.

Julian Assange deserves our unconditional support

(1) ITSERT Investigation Authorisation Form signed by Keith Watkinson 20/04/09, which states "Nature of alleged activity: That he [GPD] has produced, amended or assisted with producing materials that: Make allegations that amount to sexual harassment of a student/member of staff (Xiang Li)..." Interestingly, according to the Privacy Impact Assessment that provided the background for the above authorisation, this student/member of staff had also "presented a document of several pages in which she claimed an employee of the University [name withheld] had sexually harrassed her over several months..." It should be made clear that the allegations of sexual harrassment against this employee proved unsustainable. Despite these very serious allegations being made, no investigation or disciplinary action has been invoked against the student/member of staff who made the claims.
(2) Trotsky L, sourced at
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Friday, 3 December 2010

You'll like this... not a lot!*

Cheer up chum. It could be worse... couldn't it?
Can't afford this

With reference to the minutes of the UoS Council meeting held on 8th July 2010, according to Watkinson the Executive Director of HR, the UoS can no longer be as 'generous' with their voluntary severance scheme:

'The Executive Director of Human Resources provided a brief oral report on the University’s current Voluntary Severance Scheme. He advised that the current Scheme, which had existed for several years, was no longer sustainable. The average payment at the University in 2008/9 was £38,000 or 90% of salary which contrasted with a recent, national CBI survey which found average payments of £12,000 or 50% of salary; the University’s scheme was amongst the most generous of those provided by other north-west universities. Council noted that annual voluntary severance payments (including early release of pension) amounted to £9.7 million in 2008/9.'

In light of this, University

'Council resolved that the current Voluntary Severance Scheme be discontinued and agreed that University management should enter into a period of consultation with the trade unions about an alternative, affordable severance scheme.'

This got the grey matter working overtime. Clearly the word 'consultation' is distinct from the word 'negotiation'. And what sort of 'consultation' can be conducted on the basis that University Council has already decided to scrap the existing scheme for something a whole lot cheaper (cheaper for the University, costly of course for those taking voluntary severance).

Try comparing apples and apples
Up the apples, down the pears

Moreover the above analysis compares apples with pears (average academic salary of £42,000 compared to average salary somewhere in the region of £24,000). It is assumed that the above figures would include many of the costs of voluntary severance under Project Headroom. On the surface, 90% of salary does appear 'generous'. However, this conceals the question of the long service and age demographic of many of those who accepted voluntary severance under PH. It is suggested that this is the major contributory factor in raising the overall level of payments during 2008/09 to £9.7million.

As the students are actively resisting the massive cuts in student funding and increasing fees which mean a huge cut in future earnings, this massive cut must be resisted by the campus unions at all costs. Why? Changes such as this are usually an auger for job losses. If not, why change terms and conditions of service? However, there is another very good reason why this should be stopped in its tracks.

Can afford this

Just immediately below this little gem, another piece of Council minutary almost leapt of the page. It concerns the progress of the IT Transformation Programme. It's well worth a large quote. It goes something like this:

'The Chief Information Officer introduced a progress and finance report on the IT Transformation Programme, which was attached as an appendix to the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Report. The report requested a further £2.5 million to complete the Transformation Programme; this request had been approved by the ICT Project Board and Strategic Leadership Team and had been built into the Annual Budget to be presented to Council later in the meeting. The estimated third party hardware cost of the programme was still subject to negotiation, although a prudent estimate was £6.5 million; this would bring the overall cost of the project to £9.3 million, an overspend of £2.7 million on the original estimated cost of £6.6 million. £2 million of this sum was a result of items not originally specified by KPMG in their cost calculations. After a tendering process, Unisys had been selected as the partner to work with the University to deliver the required solution.

It's an enigma

Members questioned the extent to which the overspend against the original cost estimate could have been predicted and whether best value had been obtained from the use of KPMG as consultants. The Lead Member for IT reminded members that, when Council had approved the implementation of the IT Transformation Programme, the potential requirement for some additional expenditure had been appreciated. Both the Chief Information Officer and the Lead Member for IT confirmed that it would have been difficult for KPMG to factor in the required additional expenditure into the original estimate; this was largely a result of an underestimate of the extent of institutional maturity and capability (both in terms of human and physical resources). As an example, the KPMG solution of outsourcing data centres had not been feasible given the current state of development and would have resulted in significantly increased revenue costs. University management expressed confidence that, barring anything currently unforeseen, the additional £2.5 million would be sufficient to see the project through to a conclusion. The reduction in operation and maintenance costs after the completion of the project was emphasised; the hardware was provided on a 3-5 year renewal basis and had 5 years storage growth built in.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Registrar and Secretary advised that, as Chair of the Project Board, he would be commissioning a post project review and this would include a review of the use of consultants.

The Vice-Chancellor informed Council that the completion of the programme would provide a stable platform for flexible future delivery (taking into account the particular needs of Salford, given that the majority of students commuted to the University and were not residential) and any further requests for strategic IT spend would be included in annual budget submissions for Council approval.

Council resolved to approve the additional £2.5 million capital expenditure recommended in the report.'

Nothing of real concern here apart from a £2.7 million pound 'overspend' which is a hellofalotofmoney. Any guesses as to whose head will be on the chopping block for this little 'overspend'? If you'd like to send your answers you can do so by clicking here.

Might this not also provide an answer to the question as to why there's little money left in the coffers for the 'generous' Voluntary Severance scheme?

*Courtesy of Paul Daniels the magician