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Council worker sacked for comments about Zionism wins back job

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Council worker sacked for comments about Zionism wins back job

A self-described anti-Zionist who was sacked from his job of more than 17 years after being filmed arguing with a protester at a rally protesting against antisemitism in the Labour party has won his job back and approximately £70,000 in damages after a judge ruled he was unfairly dismissed.

Stan Keable, a public protection and safety officer at Hammersmith and Fulham council, was videoed having an exchange with a protester who was on the 26 March 2018 Enough is Enough demonstration.

During the discussion, Keable, who was on a counter-march with Jewish Voices for Labour, which was supportive of the then party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said “the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis”.

The footage was uploaded to Twitter by the Newsnight journalist David Grossman with the title Anti-Semitism Didn’t Cause the Holocaust and Zionists Collaborated with the Nazis and viewed almost 80,000 times.

Criticism was subsequently levelled at Keable, including from a local Conservative MP, Greg Hands, who identified him as an employee of the Labour council and urged it to take action. After the council leader wrote an email on 27 March calling on officials to act swiftly, Keable was suspended the same day for “offensive” comments and sacked two months later.

The employment tribunal judge heard that the council accepted Keable’s comments were not antisemitic and were a reference to the 1933 Haavara agreement, a deal between Germany and German Zionists to facilitate the emigration of Jews to British-controlled Palestine during a Jewish economic boycott of the Nazi regime.

The council also accepted that Keable, who occupied a non-political position, made the comments in a private capacity outside the workplace and did not publish them himself nor make them in a threatening or abusive manner. Nevertheless, Nicholas Austin, the dismissing officer, concluded they were widely circulated, he had been identified as a council employee, and “a reasonable person” would conclude Keable had said Zionists “colluded [or collaborated] with the Holocaust”.

However, the judge whose ruling at first instance was upheld by the employment appeal tribunal in a judgment handed down on Tuesday, said there was no evidence that this was the way Keable’s comments had been interpreted.

She added: “If it was within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer to dismiss an employee in circumstances where they have lawfully exercised their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, unconnected in any way to the workplace, without using language which was personally abusive, insulting or obscene, and when their views and opinions have, without their consent, been published and caused offence to some, or indeed many people, then there is a very great risk of dismissal to any person who expresses their lawful political views outside the workplace.”

She ordered the council to pay Keable his lost earnings and that he be reinstated to his job – a rare remedy, only used three times in 2016-17 out of 9,039 unfair dismissal claims. The council appealed but a panel at the employment appeal tribunal, led by Judge Katherine Tucker, concluded: “The judge was entitled to conclude that the dismissal was unfair.”

Keable, who was expelled from Labour in 2017 and is secretary of Labour Against the Witchhunt, which was proscribed by the party in July, said: “I want to go back to work. If I’d made offensive remarks at work, we’d be talking a different story. I’m quite willing to accept that some people were offended but that’s not a crime or a sin – it’s a necessary part of free speech.”

Hammersmith and Fulham council said: “As a public body we always expect the highest levels of conduct from our employees. We are therefore disappointed with the judgment.”

The council added that is considering its options with respect to reinstatement. If it refuses to reinstate Keable, it will have to pay him more money.

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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