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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 October 2008

Fight against the Unison witch-hunt

Pat Lawlor, a convenor at Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital, was expelled from Unison at a Belfast disciplinary hearing on 3 October. Pat is a convenor at the largest hospital in Northern Ireland and has a proud record of building union membership and strength.

A petition handed in at the hearing from hundreds of supporters demanding that he was not disciplined was disregarded by the disciplinary panel.

Pat faced a total of eight charges. In reality, this boiled down to two - one being him sending an email from his workplace in support of striking classroom workers. The other claimed that he had brought the union into disrepute. But most of the evidence produced for the hearing was actually attacking Pat for being a Socialist Party member.

The hearing itself inevitably went over the role of Unison during the classroom workers' strike last year. The smaller unions on the national negotiating body, including Unison, agreed to a compromise deal with the Northern Ireland Assembly. They outvoted NIPSA, the biggest union representing the majority, by combining their votes.

This has resulted in the creation of a two-tier workforce, with new starters earning on average 1,000 a year less.

Pat Lawlor had become a thorn in the Unison leadership's side, speaking against the deal from his position as a health convenor. This voice of dissent in the union will not be silenced by bureaucratic means.

The panel's decision creates a dangerous precedent. Anyone who campaigns for democracy in the union by criticising the leadership potentially faces the same treatment.

Letters and petitions produced by the 'Defend Pat Lawlor' campaign were used as evidence to throw him out. It is another move towards silencing any dissent within the union and a stepping up of the witch-hunt across the board.

Pat will challenge this absurd attack though an appeal, particularly since legislation in Northern Ireland allows challenges to discrimination on political grounds.

The campaign will now be stepped up. This further underlines the necessity of urgently transforming Unison's leadership in next year's national executive elections.

  • Messages of protest to: Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison, 1 Mabledon Place, London. Messages of support to the Defend Pat Lawlor campaign at: lawlorsrus@hotmail.com, tel 07810522111.
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    In The Socialist 8 October 2008:


    Credit crunch

    Where is the bailout for us?

    Editorial: Casino capitalism's crisis continues

    Lessons of the 1990s recession in Japan

    House building hits new low

    Responsibility for the 'age of irresponsibility'

    Tories grasp at popularity


    Socialist Students

    Campaign to defeat fees!

    Students look for socialist ideas


    Education

    University workers fight pension attacks

    NUT strike ballot: Action on pay can win


    Socialist Party campaigns

    A day in the life of a care worker

    The sacking of Blair, London's police chief

    Socialist meeting blocked by councillor

    No to incinerators, give us a real say!

    Keep the Metro public!


    International socialist news and analysis

    Mbeki dismissed by ANC as South Africa's president


    Socialist Party workplace news

    "Telling the boss: You can't do that"

    Fight against the Unison witch-hunt

    Frustration with union leadership

    Another victory in Greenwich

    Workplace news in brief


     

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