Former Employee Alleges Racism and Sues ACCA

ACCA is not known for providing information to its members either through its magazine or annual accounts. That pattern is continuing under the new chief executive, who has been at the helm for nearly 18 months and fighting hard to change the culture of the organisation, even though the matters could have huge financial and reputational consequences.

AABA can reveal that ACCA has been formally sued by a former employees for racism. The case has been filed  by an American citizen with a London Employment Tribunal and the case number is 2200286/2005.

The employee was unceremoniously sacked on 21 January 2005. On 28 January, he  filed a claim of racial discrimination with the Employment Tribunal against ACCA. UK's Race Relations Act 1976, The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and The Race Relations (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (implementing the EC Article 13 Race Directive) make it unlawful to treat a person less favourably than others on racial grounds. These cover grounds of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), and national or ethnic origin. In practice, most racial discrimination in Britain is against people from ethnic minorities, but people of every background, race, colour and are protected by the law. The legislation provides protection from race discrimination in many fields, including employment.

The  issue centred around whether the person was eligible to work in the UK even though he had been working in the UK since 2001 and working for  ACCA since September 2004 as Public Relations Manager, well before the appointment of a new Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

The 73 paragraphed document lodged with the Employment Tribunal by the former employee provides an interesting insight into the way ACCA treats its employees. Seemingly, employees can be fired by persons other than the chief executive. The former employee alleges that ACCA did not follow its own written procedures for disciplining and firing employees. In view of the irregular behaviour of ACCA officials, the documents alleges that the only credible motive would have been racial discrimination.

Like other legal matters (for example see this report), this case has not been reported in ACCA annual report and accounts or its highly censored magazine. There are two issues. If the employees work documents were not in order, as the ACCA alleges, then there have to be major questions about its internal controls, employment policies and practices. Someone senior needs to accept responsibility for their own negligent conduct.  However, the employee claims to have provided authoritative evidence from the UK government showing his right to work in the UK. Secondly,  the document alleges that ACCA officials have not been forthcoming with any credible reason for suddenly terminating the employment of the person. Perhaps, a personality clash with new directors or may be something else.  AABA understands that this is not the only  case brought by former employees against ACCA.

Either way, ACCA should explain the lawsuits and allegations that it is facing but it does not. The event mentioned here occurred between the date of the balance sheet and the date on which accounts were approved i.e. it is a post balance sheet event and  some information should have been included in the notes to the accounts. None has been provided. At the AGM held on 19 May 2005, ACCA chief executive failed to answer questions about deficient disclosures or the poverty of the official magazine. He added that, "like many large employers, there are disputes", but that does not justify keeping members in the dark who will eventually bear the cost of any out-of-court settlements.

Racial discrimination and attacks occur in subtle and unsubtle ways. In the past ACCA has conducted a campaign AABA director Prem Sikka, member of an ethnic minority because he campaigns for greater transparency, democracy and accountability. ACCA chief executive wrote to his employer to silence him. For three consecutive months ACCA published hate articles in the official magazine without any right to reply. Its officials changed his council election statement without his approval and officeholders made lewd gestures and comments at the  EGM in the full presence of the press and members.  Such gestures and comments were preplanned but backfired.  According to former Vice-President Jim Waits, ACCA senior officials kept a secret file on Prem Sikka  which listed things like the persons he meets, his reading habits, his contacts with journalists and politicians and even speculation on his politics and beliefs. On a number of occasions ACCA has been  asked to show whether the same treatment is given to members who are not from ethnic minorities, but it has failed to provide one iota of evidence.  Indeed, internal documents tabled at ACCA council meetings show that council members discussed ways of attacking and silencing Sikka because he had been asked to advise the Commission for Racial Equality (a statutory body) on racism at ACCA.

Nearly 60% of ACCA members are outside the UK. More than 50% of the UK membership is non-white i.e. from ethnic minorities. Yet this diversity is not reflected in the senior positions at ACCA. The 15 or so directors are all white Europeans and predominantly male. Officeholders are all white European and male. In 100 years, ACCA only one had a non-white person as its president. Yet when asked questions about these outcomes neither presidents nor chief executives even bother to answer questions at AGM.

Racism is clearly deeply embedded within ACCA and its officials are incapable of introducing any policies to eliminate it.