Questions the SNU must answer

The sudden, last-minute decision of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) not to liquidate the company that published Psychic News (as I reported last week) but to wind it down instead has important implications for the former employees of the weekly Spiritualist publication. It also leaves us wondering just what the SNU’s real intentions are.

The time has come – in the absence of any indication from the officers involved ­- to suggest a scenario that might go some way to explaining, but not justifying, the otherwise bizarre behaviour of the UK’s biggest Spiritualist organisation.

First, let me deal with the huge impact of the on/off employment status on those who have worked loyally for Psychic News over the years.

They, naturally, had sought legal advice, having been told by the union there was not enough money left in the business for it to make redundancy payments. They were advised that, on liquidation, they would be able to apply to the government for redundancy.

But when they received the surprise news that the liquidation process had been abandoned, two staff members telephoned the government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to check if this changed their situation. They were informed that since the proposed liquidation is no longer happening, there will now be no automatic access for them to the government’s redundancy payment scheme.

Instead, staff must make efforts to claim the money from Psychic Press (1995) Ltd, their former employer. If the company ultimately refuses to pay up, then there is a possibility of claiming the money they are owed from the government. However, that could be a long process. In the meantime, staff who have already been without pay for a month could face several more before anything is settled.

I am told that everyone is very stressed and unsettled by this latest shifting of the goalposts, at a time when they have already had enough stress to last one lifetime.

To be realistic, Psychic Press (1995) seems to have little chance of paying its former employees redundancy, since the only money likely to dribble in from now on will come from book sales. And yet, Psychic Press (1995) could have afforded to meet most of its financial commitments by selling the business – lock, stock and barrel – to one of the potential buyers with whom the SNU had negotiations.

Those talks, regular visitors to this blog will know, fell through when the SNU insisted that it, not Psychic Press (1995), owns the newspaper’s title, archives and other assets. Unsurprisingly, the potential buyers found the offer as unappealing as a pub without beer. The potential purchasers discovered that the business they were being offered had apparently been divested of lock, stock and most of what was in the barrel.

One has to question the morals of an organisation that closes a publication and makes its employees redundant but claims, on a technicality, that the assets referred to – which were given to it in 1995 and have been the backbone of the newspaper ever since – are not part of the equation.

There are surely only two explanations:

  1. The SNU’s current officers are a bunch of buffoons (or unquestioning sheep) devoid of business acumen who are incapable of making a sensible decision about the fate of Spritualism’s only independent weekly newspaper, Psychic News, with its 78-year record of uninterrupted publication.
  2. The SNU’s current officers (at least, those who have control) have a cunning plan to kill off Psychic News, whose independent voice was not to everyone’s liking – that much it has now achieved – and then to use its valuable collection of photographs and cuttings, stretching back nearly eight decades, for their own purpose.

Now, why would the second explanation be an option? Perhaps to create a new publication (heaven forbid, given the SNU’s failure to keep previous publications alive!)? Perhaps even to call it Psychic News (surely, they wouldn’t dare!)? If not, then why would they want to keep those valuable assets?

That raises another important question. Would the archives be used or just stored away at Stansted? If used, by whom, with what purpose and how open would they be to researchers outside the SNU? Do they appreciate that these archives would fast become of historical and research value only, rather than being the up-to-date and vibrant record of modern Spiritualism that they were until the newspaper closed, and could continue to be if passed to those who are keen to keep Psychic News going.

The time has come for David Bruton, the SNU president, and Mark Bradley, the director responsible for Psychic Press (1995), and anyone else in the know, to come clean and tell us what their intentions really are and how they can justify the appalling treatment of loyal staff by not including the newspaper’s assets in the sale of the business.

I am sending these questions directly to David Bruton and Mark Bradley with a request for a response. But I would urge other Spiritualists, organisations and churches to put the same questions to them. They’ve kept everyone in the dark for long enough. The time has come for some honest answers and the more pressure that can be brought to bear, the better.

Or is that asking too much of the SNU?

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