Union case was ‘Hitler’s legacy’

UCU man reveals anguish over tribunal


Ronnie Fraser

Ronnie Fraser

The teacher who lost a case against his union over accusations of harassment and antisemitism has spoken for the first time of the “devastating” impact of the case.

Ronnie Fraser said he felt a “duty” to stand up for British Jews, but had found the experience of giving evidence “terrifying”.

At the tribunal last October, Mr Fraser repeatedly broke down in tears. It was, he said, the result of years of tension.

When the result came, just hours before Pesach, he went into shock. According to his wife, the impact was dramatic: “It did not come out in an emotional way. It came out physically. Ronnie was bent over, he couldn’t walk. Daily life stopped.”

She said the case had become “part of Hitler’s legacy”.

Mr Fraser said: “I got a phone call at 4.10pm on Seder night to say we lost. Initially it didn’t hit me. We always knew we could lose. When I read the judgment it sunk in.

“My lawyers advised me that we could win and we put a case together. I find the judgment unreal. This was all about antisemitism and yet the judges wouldn’t rule on that aspect.”

Mr Fraser, a grandfather of nine, said his 93-year-old mother, a Holocaust survivor, had wanted to be present at the tribunal and “stare down” representatives of the University and College Union.

Mr Fraser’s wife, Lola, said: “His mum was a brave girl in Nazi Germany in the 30s and she wanted to sit through every day of the tribunal. We wouldn’t let her.”

Mr Fraser responded to criticisms that the case was “legally flawed”, and the assertion of one Jewish lawyer who said it had been “an act of epic folly”.

“People have implied that Anglo-Jewry was running this case. They were not.This case was for me and for the other activists who stood up at union meetings and were vilified. There is a point where you have to say ‘enough’.”

“The Jewish Leadership Council and Jeremy Newmark came forward and volunteered to help,” said Mr Fraser.

Southend-born Mr Fraser spent 30 years working in mechanical engineering and ran his own business repairing hydraulic equipment. After ill-health forced him to quit he qualified as a maths lecturer and began teaching sixth form students at Barnet College more than 10 years ago.

“I was an ordinary, normal bloke. I had not even been to Israel before 1990. I was never a political person. The only times when I’ve really been upset in my life relate to when things cross the line into antisemitism,” he said.

The Frasers, of Kenton, north-west London, said they had considered leaving Britain because they felt the threat of antisemitism was so severe.

“We probably wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for my parents and our kids and grandkids,” said Mr Fraser.

“I won’t look back and be bitter. I cannot resign from the union. I decided I was not going to sit back and do nothing. I think my kids have been proud of me.

“Does the community still have faith in the law? I don’t know.”

The support of his family, friends and community members at Belmont United Synagogue has convinced him to continue his campaign, although he has not yet decided whether to appeal against the tribunal result.

“You come back into the community and you feel enveloped in a supportive, comforting place,” said Mr Fraser.

“Unless you have been out there on the frontline you don’t know what you are up against. It is easy to sit at home and criticise [our case]. You have to remember what happened in Germany before the war. Lots of Jews, including my grandfather, said ‘it won’t get worse’. We have to stand up and be counted.”

Last updated: 3:49pm, April 18 2013