Hands off the rank and file

Jim Jepps


A disturbing trend of witch hunts and scapegoating has been emerging over the last few weeks. Not just by the bosses but also by the union top brass.

Union militants from the rank and file are facing it from both ways - and we can't allow this trend to continue.


UNISON should be supporting its members

Tony Staunton of Plymouth UNISON - scape goated for being an effective militantTony Staunton, Branch secretary of Plymouth's local government UNISON branch (pictured), Mandy Berger, vice chair of UNISON's national housing forum from London and UNISON NEC member John McDermott are all being victimised by their union, UNISON, ostensibly for their part in their walk out in September when Tony Blair was to address the TUC conference.

These charges are a damaging and pointless distraction and demonstrate a disturbing lack of support for workers involved in day to day struggles combating the privatisation agenda of if this government, whose supposed misdeeds are that of refusing to listen to the chief architect of those attacks at their own conference.

But there is more to this than one incident. These are long term socialist trade unionists who have a proven track record of effective militant action. Why were Plymouth's union offices raided by union officials? Why is the union demanding access to records held on Staunton's personal computer? Why were records seized and members interrogated if the union simply wanted to pursue charges over the walk out - a walk out that nobody denies taking place?

In a letter to the union from Tony Staunton he states that;

"I am convinced that UNISON would challenge any employer that behaved in this way towards any of our members... . I was given no notice of the interview, no context or introductions and was not able to have anybody present to support me at the first interview...

"Such an approach to dedicated and hard-working UNISON representatives is inappropriate and, I find, outrageous. A shared approach to dealing with the complaint, and a reasoned dialogue should be a matter of course between colleagues. The methods used have been unnerving of the morale of key activists and a distraction from the urgent business of the Branch and union. Core Officers are under extreme pressure with insufficient capacity to match the newly published plans from the Employer for major Privatisation of Highways services, swiftly on the heels of attacks on discretionary payments and cuts of more than 200 jobs, alongside the pension and pay campaigns reaching a crucial point, and a challenging watershed in the local negotiations on Job Evaluation and Equal Pay.

"I am left to conclude that the investigation represents an attack on the Branch and myself. The Branch has a long-established reputation for policy making and policy challenge at regional and national level. My role and political affiliation is widely recognised as challenging to current perspectives and strategies proposed by the national leadership. I am a long-standing member of the Socialist Workers Party and an active member of the RESPECT Party in Plymouth.

This investigation was been initiated within days of my declaration of the intention to stand in the forthcoming National Executive Committee elections. The timing of a strategic investigation into myself and the Branch about practices of supply and use of equipment - practices that have been in place for many years, is questionable."

This letter ends with an appeal to send letters of concern to

The General Secretary

UNISON, 1 Mabledon Place



The Regional Secretary

UNISON House, The Crescent


And to send messages of support to

Tony Staunton

21 Bayswater Road


Tony.Staunton@Blueyonder.co.uk and Office@unisonplymouth.net

The fact is that whilst UNISON represents the majority of public sector workers in this country and has policy after policy that opposes the slash, burn and sell off agenda of this government it's leadership is also one of the most cravenly in the pocket of New Labour and has vigorously opposed all attempts to challenge that cosy relationship. That's why these activists are being victimised and it's precisely why we need to give them all the support we can.



JJB Sports

After what seemed like a successful conclusion of the JJB Sports dispute, with strike action winning significant back dated pay rises, management have decided to victimise one of the leading rank and file GMB activists who was central to the strike action, Chris Riley.

No sooner was the ink dry on the agreement, which included a no victimisation clause specifically prohibiting the victimisation of union activists JJB Sports management have sacked Riley and confirmed in a meeting with GMB organisers that they have no intention of reversing their decision.

Socialist Unity spoke to Sandra Blight, the GMB Organiser responsible for members at JJB Sports, who told us that the sacking was a "vindictive and vile act" that was not just "an attack on the GMB, and the GMB reps but an attack on trade unions as a whole." She also said that the "GMB will immediately restart the nationwide campaign, including strike action at Wigan unless JJB Sports and Mr Knight adhere to the agreement they signed with GMB."

A GMB statement issued after meeting with JJB Sports managers reads "Unless people honour the signed agreement made in good faith, there is no basis for stable industrial relations. Today we have given notice of a new strike ballot at JJB Sport. The Wigan depot will stop again unless Chris Reilly is re-instated.

"GMB North West will be making an appeal to the entire Labour movement for practical and financial support for those low paid workers who are facing the prospect of a second loss of wages to defend their rights. We will be asking for financial support for the strike fund and for demonstrations at JJB Sports shops and outside football grounds, where Wigan FC plays."

Messages of support can be sent direct to Chris Riley at this address.

You can also check out the new blog for this dispute at jjbfightback.blogspot.com which also suggests that you could



Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust

Yunus Bakhsh, a well known health activist in Unison has been suspended from work (and union duties) for eight weeks. Yunus is joint branch secretary of Unison North of Tyne health branch, a member of the unionís health service group executive and a former member of the unionís national executive.

He was suspended on the basis of an undated, anonymous letter, which the management claim could be backed up by anonymous statements - hardly due process, and clearly against agreed policy and procedure.

Whilst the bosses have just awarded themselves fat pay increases they are preparing to make swathing cuts in the NHS Trust - and one problematic obstacle to doing this is an effective trade union. The branch is one of the best organised in the NHS and Yunus, as a key activist in that branch, has been the subject of attempted victimisation on more than one occasion.

What the Trust has done has serious implications for every member of staff in the Trust. The policies that are in place are supposed to protect workers from this type of behaviour and this kind of laissez faire attitude to industrial relations on the part of the employers is completely unacceptable.

This attack should not be seen as an attack one individual but preparation for war. By removing, or cowing, Yunus they seriously undermine the entire union's ability to fight back against the coming cuts.

Workers are in the process of considering a ballot for industrial action to defend Yunus.

Send messages of support to this address and/or c/o UNISON North of Tyne Health, Newcastle General Hospital, Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE4 6SE, Fax: 0191 256 3171




Together we stand, divided we fall

When UNISON officers Nigel Flanagan, Paul Summers and Doreen Smith were sacked by Sefton council late last year (05) whilst it was possible to win concessions from the council the union, even with the backing of the general secretary and a number of strike days, were unable to gain reinstatement for Flanagan and Smith and were only able to achieve the completely unreasonable reinstatement of Summers if he was barred from any further trade union activity.

Just like Jerry Hicks earlier this year, sacked from Rolls Royce in Bristol, Flanagan and Summers were given employment by their union, so the personal cost of the victimisation was off set. However, the inability to retain their jobs has been a massive set back for the local union who have had real difficulty filling branch posts that look like automatic dismissal.

By dismissing one or a small number of union members it has been possible for the employer to cow the entire branch, and possibly beyond. That's why when even one union member is victimised by the employer the entire union movement needs to respond. The same goes for the victimisation of militants by a rightward leaning union bureaucracy.

We'd like to urge readers to use the contact details above to send messages of support both individually and from your trade union branches and local trades council.



December 2006

> > home page > >