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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2010

Unison witch-hunt continues

Unison has continued its witch-hunt by banning Alan Docherty, the Darlington local government branch secretary, from holding office for three years. His 'crime' was defending himself from attacks by Unison northern region's leadership for his involvement in the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN). He is the Tees Valley secretary of the NSSN.

Alan is co-ordinating the campaign to resist swingeing cuts from his employer, Darlington borough council. Alan asked that his disciplinary hearing be postponed until after the current anti-cuts campaign, but his request was ignored.

Despite this, the branch has waged an active anti-cuts campaign. This has had some successes so far.

On 16 February over 100 members turned out to a lively demonstration to lobby the Labour cabinet to drop their plans to cut pay. This rally was addressed by Unison national executive (NEC) member Hannah Walter, and trades council secretary, Pat Buttle. Both Hannah and Pat criticised the Unison leadership for its attack on Alan and praised him as a committed activist.

The complaint leading to the ban arises from a year ago when Alan stood for the NEC as a 'Reclaim Our Union' candidate. His opponent made the complaint against Alan, after Alan had rung to ask why he was proposing a motion through Durham County branch seeking punitive action against officers and members of the Shop Stewards Network who he claimed were bringing Unison into disrepute. Alan circulated the motion to those implicated.

This motion was backed unanimously as a statement by Unison's northern regional committee. No further discussion on this statement was allowed within the union on the basis it contravened confidentiality under disciplinary procedures.

A NEC disciplinary committee upheld the view that Alan broke several rules associated with democratic procedures and had brought the union into disrepute - hence should be removed from office. Alan intends to fight this decision.

  • Demand Unison stops the witch-hunts, protest to Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison, 1 Mabledon Pace, London, WC1H 9AJ.
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