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Workplace News: Unison

Press release

Outrageous "racism" charge leads to union ban

Four members of the public sector union Unison were last week banned from holding positions in their union following two years of investigations and hearings. A leaflet distributed at the 2007 Unison conference criticising the ruling out of resolutions relating to pay and accountability of full-time union officials and financing the Labour Party was found to have given "racist offence to members" for using a cartoon of the Three Wise Monkeys.

Based on this outrageous trumped up charge, the four have been found guilty and sentenced to a ban from office for three years for Glenn Kelly (NEC member and Bromley branch secretary) & Onay Kasab (Greenwich branch secretary), four years for Suzanne Muna (Housing Corporation branch secretary) and five years for Brian Debus (Hackney branch chair)!

To find four members, who have always opposed, fought and campaigned against racism, of effectively being racist themselves is not only outrageous but a terrible accusation for these four unison members to have to bear. Such a slur is bound to cause difficulties in the future, especially when working and applying for jobs in the public sector.

This has provoked anger and outrage both within Unison and in the wider trade union movement. The priority of every union should be to defend its members from job losses, reduced hours and worse conditions which are being foisted on workers during this recession. However the Unison bureaucracy is instead narrowly focused on silencing any opposition to the Unison leadership, especially socialists with a track record of fighting for their members.

Unison activists and supporters of the four are organising a mass protest outside of Unison head office on Thursday 30th July to make their anger known and warn the leadership of the union that they will not quietly accept this unjust result.

Supporters of the four victimised trade unionists include the comedians Rory Bremner and Mark Thomas who had the following to say about the case:


"On the face of it, Unison are about to make themselves look a laughing stock. They need to be very aware of the widespread ridicule this will attract to their union and its leaders, and think again before the papers get hold of this and make them look foolish and authoritarian. They don't need this distraction"

Rory Bremner

"I know Onay Kasab - Kas. I have had the privilege of working with him on the Ilisu Dam Campaign and on the issue of trade unionist deaths in Columbia. To accuse him of being racist is utter stupidity and madness... those who brought this charge need to take a lie down in a quiet room, possibly with whale music playing and get a rest or they need to acknowledge their actions are motivated by other factors."

Mark Thomas

Further information and background material can be found at www.stopthewitchhunt.org.uk.

Sentence Has Been Passed On The Four - A Ban From Office For Three Years!

Four Unison members, Glenn Kelly, Branch Secretary of Bromley Unison and Unison national executive, Onay Kasab, Branch Secretary Greenwich Unison, Brian Debus, Branch Chair Hackney Unison and Suzanne Muna, Branch Secretary Unison Tenant Services Authority, have been banned from office for three years.

Protests Urgently Needed

Please inform other trade unionists about the disgraceful punishment of the four.

Protest letters to Dave Prentis are needed. Please click Letter of Protest (Word doc) for standard letter to sign (or compose your own.)


Show your solidarity with activists under attack in Unison

The four Socialist Party members under attack from the Unison leadership have been found “guilty” of two charges – one that they produced a leaflet at the annual conference of Unison in 2007 which questioned why the Standing Orders Committee had ruled out key motions from being debated. Simply highlighting this on a leaflet resulted in the first charge of an “attack on the integrity of the members of the Standing Orders Committee.”

The second charge relates to the use of a well known Buddhist proverb and cartoon on the leaflet of the three wise monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.)

The four have been charged with “Failing to show due care in not anticipating that someone might take offence [from the leaflet]”.

On 17 July Unison’s disciplinary panel delivered their verdict and then scuttled off to consider the sentence. The result should be known in a couple of weeks.

The attacks have nothing to do with these trumped up charges and everything to do with eliminating any opposition to the Unison leadership and specifically to the Socialist Party which the four are members of. Five Unison members were originally investigated but charges against the member who was not in the Socialist Party were dropped!

Socialist Party members in Unison have consistently argued that Unison should put their members before the interests of New Labour who receive huge sums of trade union money but then attack public sector workers.

This is a classic witch-hunt, with some Unison members already expelled and others under investigation for opposing the leadership.

The two-year investigation and hearings have whipped up widespread anger towards the Unison leadership. But the Defend the Four campaign has attracted huge support within Unison and the wider trade union movement.

All supporters of the four are called on to flood the union HQ with protests against this blatant witch-hunt. The charge of racism in particular, no matter how its framed could not only jeopardise their union membership but also their employment chances.

This witch-hunt is a disgrace  to the trade union movement. All four have a long and proud record of fighting racism and fascism in the workplace and the wider community.

Send your protests now to Unison HQ: Unison, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ . Telephone: 0845 355 0845  

e-mail: d.prentis@unison.co.uk 

Also send to: Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858 London E11 1YG.

See also: www.stopthewitchhunt.org.uk

Unison leaders challenged for political discrimination

May 2009

Pat Lawlor, former Unison nursing convenor in the RVH, is continuing his fight against the decision by the right wing Unison leadership to expel him from the union. Pat’s “crime” was to send an email supporting the 2007 strike by NIPSA Classroom Assistants and criticising the local Unison leadership for failing to involve Unison members in this action.

The real reason for his expulsion is that, as a member of the Socialist Party, Pat stands for a democratic fighting union leadership that really defends the interests of members, and, as such, represents a threat to the unelected right wing officials who are the real power at the head of the union. Pat is taking his case that he was expelled because of his socialist political views to an Industrial Tribunal. Unison leaders here make much of their commitment to equality. This will all be exposed as a sham if they are found to have discriminated against one of their own activists because of his political views. Whatever the outcome, Pat’s case has highlighted the need for Unison members to build a campaign to democratise this union and put the members back in charge.


Download The Health Worker HERE

Action needed to stop the health cuts

By Pat Lawlor, UNISON Nursing Convenor, RVH, March 2008

THE NEWS that maternity services in Lagan Valley Hospital (LVH) will close in 18 months will be no surprise to workers in the health service as their terms and conditions have been under attack for some time now. The South Eastern Health Trust responsible for LVH acknowledges all acute services are now under review. Chief Executive John Compton states the closure of the maternity unit would save approximately £1 million a year. This is the same John Compton whose salary jumped from £90,000 to £134,285 for “efficiency” savings under the Review of Public Administration. Compton has argued the need for these efficiency savings to secure over £75 million investment for healthcare in the area. What he didn’t say was this ‘investment’ would mean opening up healthcare to the private sector. 

The decimation of acute in-hospital services will no doubt put lives at risk in the Down and Lisburn area as LVH provides services for more than 125,000 people. The closing of acute services in LVH leaves serious questions over the future of the A&E department; forcing people to make almost an hours journey to A&E departments in Belfast or Craigavon. This is at the same time as the Assembly Executive is discussing reducing A&E services in Belfast from three major trauma sites to one in the Royal Victoria, with two nurse-led units in Belfast City and Mater Hospitals. It is unlikely maternity units in Belfast or Craigavon would be able to handle Lagan Valley’s 1,200 births a year, as services are already stretched to the maximum. In 2007 alone, there were 6000 births in the Royal Maternity Belfast, exceeding the projected maximum number of 4,800 births. 

This pressure on service provision also comes at a time when management of the Belfast Trust are attacking terms and conditions of workers.  The trust is demanding savings of £131 million over three years by cutting over 2000 jobs in a drive to meet the 3% efficiency savings set by the Assembly.  Management have introduced a ‘redeployment policy’ which forces workers to be sent to any area or hospital within the Belfast Trust. Senior managers are demanding workers “change the way they think things must be done” through the “new ways of working policy”. This means staff are expected to accept shortages and excessive workload as they carry out the work of those who have lost their jobs.

A campaign must now be launched by health workers and the trade unions alongside those in the communities to defend the NHS. Meetings need to be held to publicise these attacks and to organise a campaign. Together with demonstrations of health workers and communities, the health service trade unions also need to seriously look towards calling industrial action to stop the cuts.