Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/351/5809
Whipps Cross Hospital
How We Won Our Tribunal Case
KOLA SHOKUNBI, UNISON shop steward at Whipps Cross hospital in east London and Socialist Party member, has won his appeal against unfair dismissal.
Kola represents domestic and catering staff working for a privatised company at the hospital.
LEN HOCKEY, from UNISON's Waltham Forest Health branch, explains how this important victory was achieved.
"We did a lot of lobbying, including UNISON's general secretary, so everybody in the union leadership would understand how important Kola's case was. Now we need to get the national union to call for Kola's immediate reinstatement.
After we got a successful result in last year's pay dispute, ISS Mediclean's contract ran out. In October 2003 the new contract was awarded to Initial Hospital Services, whose parent company is Rentokil.
When they took over the contract there was a change in management's behaviour. They were prepared to suspend workers at the drop of a hat. It was clear to the unions that they wanted to confront us. We felt that they'd had their instructions from the hospital trust.
Kola was suspended this March and dismissed in April. They alleged he'd shouted at a manager. They knew he'd had a prominent role in recruiting to the union from the domestic side, which historically was always poorly organised. He was unpopular with management but popular with his members and workers at the hospital.
On the day of the tribunal we waited for the result from 12.30 until 5.10, pacing up and down in the room. But the longer it went on the more encouraged we became. When we heard the result, it was all we could do to stay in our seats without doing cartwheels. Kola was over the moon and so was the UNISON regional officer.
The tribunal said that the management decision to sack Kola "went beyond the range of reasonable responses" from the employer. There are now 28 days for representations but it is a good impetus to get Kola reinstated.
The tribunal decision comes ahead of UNISON's national conference, which I understand will profile our success in recruiting migrant workers during our pay dispute - how we won the union's organising and recruitment award.
The unions have been slow in going into the private sector. But if you've got a bit of conviction and belief you can enthuse people and win a core of workers to the banner of trade unionism. It takes a lot of hard work, I'd say it takes a million conversations, but the rewards are there."
In The Socialist 12 June 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis