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ASTW sackings: A Kangaroo Court?

August 1, 2014 Association, Headline News 5 Comments Email Email

The committee of the ASTW has cancelled my 27-year membership without cause or explanation.

The advice came in a one-paragraph letter from the secretariat: “ The ASTW committee considered your membership at the recent substantiation meeting. Your substantiation has been denied and therefore your membership ceased on June 30 2014.”
Emails to the president and all members of committee and the ASTW secretariat asking for a reason have gone unanswered.
This decision is unconscionable and a disgraceful demonstration of the committee’s apparent contempt for the society’s constitution and code of ethics.

The decision is vindictive, patently in violation of the rules of membership, and seriously damaging to my hitherto unblemished good name and reputation.

I am therefore obliged to send this communication to all members in an effort to defend my professional status and refute the seriously derogatory inferences contained in the committee’s wrongful decision and its refusal to reveal the reasons for my sacking to me or any other members of the ASTW.

The broad membership of the ASTW is entitled to conclude that my crime is so heinous that it cannot be disclosed, or else committee has something to hide.

My substantiation material as a Public Relations member (sent on April14) took nearly a week to collate, photocopy and post to each of the then nine committee members. 

It comprised nearly 100 (one hundred) tear sheets of travel articles and press releases published in major newspapers, magazines and online travel sites throughout Australia in the 12 months of the substantiation period. It more than satisfied the most onerous of tests for public relations membership of the ASTW.

A covering letter in my substantiation explained that for many of the past 27 years as an ASTW member, I had represented Thai Airways International and Star Clippers Cruises as their Australian public relations consultant.  
During that period I was responsible for more than 50 personally escorted famils (around 300 travel writers) for mostly ASTW members throughout the Southeast Asian region; two of the most successful Bangkok ASTW AGM’s in the society’s history; individual flight assistance in Asia and Europe for scores of writers on single assignments; FOC international hotel and resort accommodation for scores of present and past members of the ASTW; and introductions to countless travel contacts throughout the world.
In recent years 47 mostly ASTW members sailed with their partners/children/friends (all FOC) on Star Clippers cruises I organised in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Baltic, the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Phuket.
For all that and 27 years dedicated membership, the committee, led by the president, sacked me without a word of explanation or thanks, and issued an edict that committee would not discuss the matter with myself or any member of the ASTW. 
In response to a ‘please explain’ inquiry he made on my behalf on July 20, senior member John Savage says that Kerry Heaney replied by email:
“Mr Mays substantiation was considered by the whole committee and he has been advised of the result. No further communication is required by the constitution or can be considered.”

The substantiation saga began in March this year when my membership substantiation submission apparently captured the special attention of the then newly-appointed secretariat’s (and through her, the president) when I announced that I had ceased to represent Star Clippers and had joined Aviation and Tourism International (ATI) as its public relations consultant.
ATI is a Sydney-based company established in 1991 representing four international airlines, more than 200 hotels and resorts throughout Southeast Asia and Pandaw river cruises, the largest of its kind in the Indochina region.
On April 5,  the ASTW’s membership manager on committee, was instructed to investigate. He emailed me requesting “evidence of your new position as PR for ATI in the form of a letter of appointment, press releases and information of forthcoming famils or PR events for the company.”

Two days later, having provided all the information requested (including the ATI appointment letter) he thanked me “for clarifying your position with ATI.”

On April 11, after apparently consulting with the president, he was back on the case with more demands asking for “tear sheets of published press releases for Star Clippers and ATI, and details (where and when) of famils organised and the number of ASTW members who attended.”

I answered the questions and sent the 100 tear sheets to all committee members on April 14.
After that, confident that I had presented an eminently worthy substantiation and survived the ASTW’s equivalent of a strip-search, I heard no more until the letter on June 30 bluntly advising that I was no longer a member.
This struck me as being a most curious (outrageous) outcome.  I wondered if any of the other 135 (approximately) PR members had been so aggressively grilled and failed in this year’s substantiation process? And how many of the 165 writer members had wilted under the committee’s substantive gaze?
So, was my substantiation really not up to par ? Or did the committee have a secret agenda that prompted them to make such a bizarre decision ? 

(The truth is that after lodging a formal complaint in February about the drawing of the ASTW’s Xmas 2013 raffle in Brisbane, I was persona non grataMy stance was later vindicated when a State Government investigation issued a warning to committee in July about its conduct of raffles. The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation thanked me for bringing the matter to their attention).

It seems to me that the ASTW committee, faced with the unpalatable prospect of having to deal with this and other highly embarrassing complaints I had made over the following months (right up until June) used the substantiation process (blatantly in breach of the constitution)  to get rid of me, knowing that there was nothing in the constitution requiring it to explain its actions.
Expulsion, although the more appropriate action to take against a noisy member embarked upon an annoying pursuit of justice and transparency, was not an option for a committee intent on sweeping problems under the carpet.
This avenue of punishment would have meant that I had a legal right to publicly plead my case before a general meeting of the society –- and almost certainly open a Pandora’s box.
So far as I am aware there were still five of my most serious complaints waiting to be considered as at June 30. As I am no longer a member, one could be excused for expecting that those matters may have already been conveniently consigned to the waste paper basket.
But fear not, while the fat lady may indeed have sung, the party is far from over.
More will be revealed in my next bulletin: 
Details of  the controversial raffle….armed police swoop on the ASTW secretariat office…more members face dismissal…a call for the committee to explain or resign …

In the meantime here are some recent snippets of interest:
• Peter Cole Editor/Travel Editor of the prestigious widely circulated executive magazine ‘Council Leader’ also had his substantiation denied and lost his membership on June 30.Kerry Heaney won’t tell him why. (Peter Cole supported my complaint about the controversial raffle).
• Soon afterwards, Tony Walsh a 20-year ASTW veteran and long time editor of  ‘The Tattler’ magazine, resigned from the ASTW citing “ the society’s handling of some recent administration and membership matters”.
• In the same week, Gary Walsh (no relation to Tony) an ASTW member for 25 years and arguably the society’s most celebrated writer  (three-time winner of Australia’s Travel Writer of the Year award) unexpectedly encountered opposition from the president on facebook when he sought official ASTW support for the protests by journalists world-wide against the jailing of Peter Greste in Egypt.
The ASTW president wrote: “Gary Walsh – please put your resignation in a letter to the committee so we can accept with pleasure”.  He did.

Written by: Glyn May 
 (Watch this space)

Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. stingforever says:

    ….so what on earth does astw stand for?…

  2. John Silvano says:

    Is this the same Glyn May who was the subject of an ABC Media Watch story

  3. Glen Matherson says:

    I’ve come across this guy before, trying to be a bit of everything, writes for papers that don’t pay for editorial, has a business card saying he’s a writer, but is a PR member of the association. He’s a reason why I left the association a few years ago. He makes a mockery of associations like ASTW. Why hasn’t anyone stood up to him earlier? And why isn’t this publication asked for a response by the association before publishing this story? Shameful.

  4. Editor says:

    Hi stingforever, ASTW stands for Australian Society of Travel Writers

  5. Publisher says:

    We did ask for the ASTW to provide a comment via their website but they did not respond.

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