Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/795/18020
Publicity alone can't save sacked union branch official
Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest
Polly Toynbee, well-known Guardian journalist and prominent Labour Party member, recently wrote a column highlighting the case of Charlotte Monro, chair of our local Whipps Cross Hospital Unison branch.
It is widely accepted that Charlotte was victimised and sacked for speaking out against cuts and specifically the removal of the stroke unit from the hospital.
The Socialist Party argued at every turn in this struggle that the defence of Charlotte should be linked to the general fight to defend healthcare.
However, that was not the strategy put by the officials within Unison's London region. Their strategy echoes that being put by the national leaders of Unison and other trade unions: don't have strikes that will put the Labour Party in an embarrassing position in the run up to a general election.
Since Charlotte's first suspension we have had a public meeting of over 100 and another of over 70, a demo of between 600-700 people, an indicative ballot for action, of which 97% voted in favour of strike action.
But London Unison officials have frustrated any attempt to widen support for Charlotte and for a campaign against cuts.
Unison officials refused to circulate a letter appealing for support for Charlotte, a retired members' meeting was told that they couldn't send a message of solidarity to the local demonstration, Unison officers advised the branch committee not to call a meeting or to discuss what was happening to Charlotte on any level.
Polly Toynbee is very eloquent at describing the problem and it is great to get celebrity endorsement.
Russell Brand retweeted a tweet I put out asking him to back our local demo last September. He probably has millions of followers on twitter, yet I'm not sure even one of them turned up to the demo.
Publicity is important but a strategy that wins is vital. It would be great to see all those journalists who are lamenting the effects of cuts now in their columns, lining up to back the RMT in their dispute over job cuts.
In The Socialist 22 January 2014:
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