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Posted on 4 February 2011 at 18:01 GMT

Hackney Unison condemns union witch-hunt and calls on Labour councils to set needs budgets

Unions protest at Hackney town hall, photo The Socialist

Unions protest at Hackney town hall, photo The Socialist   (Click to enlarge)

A rapturous cheer rang round the crowded meeting hall of over 250 rank and file trade unionists at the Hackney (London) Unison AGM on Wednesday 2 February, as the branch secretary announced the Employment Tribunal victory of the four Socialist Party members wrongfully barred from holding office in Unison.These included our former branch chair Brian Debus.

A Hackney Unison member

The damning conclusions of the tribunal chair, which called into question the honesty and motives of the unelected bureaucrats who led this disgraceful witch-hunt, were read out.

Audible gasps and murmurs of anger were directed toward the Unison regional officer who was present at the AGM. He has covered Hackney for several years and is also responsible for the Newham branch which has been suspended from functioning for two years now. It seems his role is to 'control' Hackney branch on behalf of the witchfinders and to douse the flames of democracy, free speech and socialism!

The branch secretary demanded a written apology from those responsible. Not only to Brian but to the branch as a whole for the disruption of union activity, the massive waste of resources, but most of all for the slanderous accusations directed at a dedicated anti-racist who has served trade unionists from all ethnicities so well down the years.

Some speakers from the floor called for an investigation and disciplinary action to be instigated against those responsible for this now notorious action.

The regional officer was asked to account for the actions of the region. His misleading response was that he could not comment due to the proceedings being confidential.

This assertion was immediately challenged by members who pointed out that employment tribunals are a matter of public record. In defiance of the union leadership the meeting overwhelmingly elected Brian to the post of Education Officer in advance of any formal notice that he could resume office.

We await the humble contrition of those responsible for this attempt to close down democratic debate. The meeting debated several important motions including one that called for a 24-hour national public sector strike to oppose cuts in jobs and services.

The importance of coordinated action among workers under threat from the Con-Dem government was highlighted as was the slow and hesitant response of some of the trade union leadership.

The membership voted overwhelmingly to pass the motion.

One of the most interesting discussions at the meeting was on a motion put forward calling on all Labour councils (including Hackney) to pass needs-based budgets instead of voting through cuts.

A number of members spoke for or against the motion leading to a lively and very healthy debate. The arguments against, now becoming well rehearsed in Labour councils across the country, were that these are Tory cuts, 'there is no choice', we must be realistic and make it easy for Labour to come on board in the anti-government struggles etc.

One of the four speakers who asked us to oppose the motion is himself a Labour councillor in Enfield, although he didn't declare this fact. He may have been somewhat concerned that the only votes against the motion in our AGM were the four speakers themselves, plus four others, with seven abstentions and 230+ for the motion.

While Labour is now riding high in the opinion polls nationally the signs for the local elections in May this year may be somewhat more mixed.

We call on all Unison members and branches to demand that the injustice of the witch-hunt be undone.

A model motion and the background to this case can be found on the Defend the Four Website:

Defend the Four meeting

Tuesday 22 February 7.30pm. Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street London NW1 2HR. (Round the corner from Euston station). John McDonnell MP will be speaking.

Lobby the Unison national executive

Wednesday 23 February 8.30am. Unison HQ, Mabledon Place, off Euston road.

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