On Friday, March 20, the Tribunal of Charlotte Monro came to an end and the presiding judge gave his final comments. In these comments, he was quite scathing of the treatment of Ms Monro by Barts Health NHS Trust and the thinly veiled attempt to stifle or deflect her concerns regarding the Trust’s quality of care at Whipps Cross Hospital and their inhuman treatment of the hospital workers. With the agreement between the Trust and Ms Monro, a judgment by the panel of the judge and two lay members will not be given, but the content of the proceedings of the Tribunal has been shown to be of significance. Its proceedings were conducted under the public gaze, and who has justice on their side is open for all to see.
The Tribunal’s proceedings brought out that rather than dealing with Ms Monro’s concerns, which she raised in her role as a union representative for the hospital workers, the Trust sought to discredit her by alleging that she was dismissed for giving “inaccurate information”, and by alleging that Ms Monro’s has failed to disclose “multiple convictions”. What the Tribunal exposed was the hostility of the Trust towards Ms Monro on the basis of her taking a stand against threats to health care, and being accountable to the interests of the health workers whom she represented. In other words, the dismissal of Ms Monro came about because the Trust recognised only an alleged duty of “confidentiality” and no duty of being accountable to the staff, her members, including their concern for the future direction of the health service. Thus the extreme hostility of the Trust to Ms Monro was shown, in fact, to be in their view because she was a “union activist”. The Trust recognised no agenda but their own, no life but their own dogmatic rendering of it.
During the Tribunal, the judge made it clear that the circumstances of a person’s previous convictions are a very important measure of whether their behaviour and stand was just. In Ms Monro’s case, the circumstances were of the political activism of the 1970s in defence of rights and justice for all. Thus, the circumstances of her convictions convinced the judge that Ms Monro’s actions had been a measure of her good character and strength in defending her principles at the time. But further, in the forty years since these convictions were given, Ms Monro has been an example of excellence in her work at the hospital and is a person of the highest standing among her fellow colleagues and patients. It is also the case that the Trust, as a public body, has a duty to uphold human rights, so a dismissal could only be on the basis, not of “spent” convictions, but of an assessed risk to patients which demand the pressing need of dismissal. This was clearly the opposite of being the case. The Trust had no right to make a public statement defaming Ms Monro.
The Appeal Tribunal came at the time when the latest Francis Report has exposed the culture of diktat and intimidation within the health service. It also came at the time when Barts Health Trust is clearly in disarray, being put in special measures and with several resignations from its top echelons. The case of Charlotte Monro has assisted in clarifying and establishing what is just and unjust, the importance of uniting all in action to take a stand.
Whilst in a just society, where all its members have taken part in establishing the laws of the state and willingly agree to uphold them, there are circumstances, such as the clearly heinous laws passed by the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1930s, where it is important to stand up for the rights of those oppressed by such unjust laws and to oppose all injustice and arbitrariness.
So the question could be posed as to who was really in the dock here regarding wrong-doing and injustice. The agenda coming from the ruling elite is to criminalise dissent. Charlotte’s case has contributed to putting a spanner in the works of this agenda.
In today’s Britain, laws are passed with increasing rapidity, and often these laws are contradictory and quite arbitrary. In fact, this state of arbitrariness exists all the time. There has developed a quite Kafka-esque situation where the government brings laws into being and the society is told it must simply carry these laws out. For example, in all schools and public work places involving children, all employees and adults who might come into contact with children already must sign a DBS form, which includes getting a police check and two references. In September, the government introduced a new law requiring these same employees and adults to sign a further enhanced DBS form asserting that they do not share a dwelling with any persons with any criminal convictions. This was supposed to have been carried out in full by December 31. However, by January, the issue was seemingly dropped.
The effect of the law has been to potentially criminalise by association a section of people. More importantly, it was not discussed, nor openly introduced, and yet at the same time, it has been enacted on people, requiring them to mindlessly obey yet another diktat. This in itself is a form of fascism and encourages people to simply follow and not to challenge.
As the judge in the Tribunal alluded to, there may be wider context to the circumstances of the case which would involve organisers like Charlotte Monro once more taking to the streets. It is a case of upholding the right to conscience and the right to be. For justice to be done, there must prevail a climate of being able to speak out and be taken seriously. And although employment law does not present a level playing field for working people, nevertheless against this grain the reinstatement of Charlotte Monro is a major victory. And clearly, one thing that needs further addressing is to overturn the law under which workers find it almost impossible, because of the imposed cost and other factors, to go to an Employment Tribunal in the first place. The number is reported to have dropped by 80% since costs were imposed.
What Ms Monro’s Tribunal also exposed is that it is important to challenge the arbitrariness of decision-making from on high, the issue of having to “do as you’re told”, or face the consequences. It is necessary to break through the hopelessness and powerlessness that this agenda represents for the people, and in this fight the working class can advance with its heads held high. In the final analysis, the fight is one for the empowerment of people and for the democratic renewal of the society. Charlotte Monro, like so many principled health workers and activists, represents the highroad of civilisation which defends the rights of all and establishes that everyone has rights by virtue of being human in a human society.
That Charlotte Monro has been reinstated can be of immense inspiration to all who are seeking to unite the working class and people in action for what is just and against what is unjust. Her case was fought not on the basis of some exceptional, extreme or extremely oppressed individual isolated from the class, but as one who represents the social consciousness of human beings who are the target of the wrecking activities of those in authority, beginning with those in government. The victory of Charlotte’s reinstatement would seem to sidestep a judgment being given which would set a legal precedent. But it sets a precedent in terms of the work of providing the working class with consciousness and organisation, and showing the fight for what is just can never be underestimated and imbues its participants with dignity and optimism for the future despite the odds.