Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/513/3519
Defending trade union rights
After four weeks in dispute, Manchester's striking mental health workers remain determined to win reinstatement of their union representative, Karen Reissmann. Health workers, other unions and the public have shown huge support.
Hugh Caffrey, Manchester Socialist Party
Karen was sacked for speaking out against the Community Mental Health Trust management, who want to cut £3million-worth of services. This will mean less services with fewer staff. The right of union reps to speak out is fundamental and must be defended.
But at the time of writing, the appeal board shows every sign of upholding Karen's dismissal.
As we go to press, strikers are preparing Unison's "day of solidarity" with the strike on 5 December. Protests are expected around the country, and in Manchester at all hospitals, by Blood Service staff, local government workers, postal workers, fire-fighters, civil servants, and others.
If Karen is reinstated this will be a victory for all workers against cuts, job losses, and victimisation. If Karen's sacking is upheld then the case will go to tribunal, which could be many months away. Unison needs to plan the next steps.
£3million-worth of cuts are still impending and will require determined resistance. Any return to work should include a 'no victimisation' clause - management have shown how vindictive they are in trying to bully and financially ruin nurses.
Unison nationally and regionally has backed the strike, although slowly. If Unison had taken the lead in organising a service-wide struggle against cuts and management bullying, bosses might never have been confident to launch these attacks.
New Labour is no friend of mental health workers. Labour councillors Burns and Pagel sit on the Trust board. Labour council spokesperson Councillor Curley viciously attacked the strike, yet no local Labour MP or councillor publicly condemned this.
Mental health minister Lewis refused to even discuss the case with strikers. Unison should immediately disaffiliate from New Labour and support the likes of the London rail workers and Merseyside firefighters in building an alternative at the May 2008 elections.
The Socialist Party intends to stand against Tony Burns next year in Baguley ward. Health workers should consider how to challenge the likes of Curley (Charlestown) and Pagel (Cheetham).
To defeat service cuts and vicious bosses, organising wider support is crucial. Manchester's mental health workers have shown that this can be mobilised in the health service. Building a fighting leadership within Unison, and strengthening active links with other groups of workers and anti-cuts campaigns will put health workers in the strongest possible position to defeat future attacks.
- Demonstration: in victory or in struggle! In Piccadilly Gardens the day after the appeal verdict. Ring 07769 611 320 for details.
- Solidarity meeting - every Monday, 6-7.30pm, Mechanics Institute, Princess St., city centre.
In The Socialist 6 December 2007:
Workplace news and analysis
What we think
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Post Office and CWU