Criminal classes

Letter by Andrea Needham, Hastings

I was pleased to read the positive accounts in last month’s “Activism”column. My experience was very different. I have always been completely upfront about my criminal record, which consists of a number of NVDA convictions, and have usually had no problems with employers, who mostly are able to distinguish between peaceful direct action and ‘criminal’ behaviour.

When I started work for a nursing agency, my employers said that my convictions were not a problem. I worked for over a year, and had nothing but praise from the various hospitals and care homes where I worked.

But then the agency was bought out, and the new owners had a rule (they claimed) that they would not employ anyone with criminal convictions, with the only exception being for driving offences (so if I’d been done for drink driving rather than sitting in the road, that would have apparently been just fine). Consequently, I was sacked.

I had a lot of support from my union but the situation at the time was that agency workers were not covered by unfair dismissal legislation, so I had no comeback. I don’t know whether my experience is common but with the job market as it is, it may well be that a lot of people who declare convictions on application forms may never even make it as far as an interview. I’m now self-employed, so am secure in the knowledge that I’m the only one who can sack me...