EIGHTY PEOPLE from Unison branches across London took part in a protest against the appalling actions of the union's leadership in the witch-hunt against four Socialist Party members.
Outside Congress House, where the London region of Unison has its offices, Unison members burned letters from the regional secretary, Linda Perks.
Disgraceful letters have been sent to all the members in Greenwich, Bromley and the Tenant Services Authority, and to all London Unison branch secretaries, saying that the three branches (which were led by three of the four witch-hunted members) have been taken into regional supervision because they were "ineffective"!
So much for the four Socialist Party members being punished for alleged racism or challenging the integrity of the standing orders committee in the leaflet they did for Unison conference in 2007.
During 33 months of persecution as the investigation dragged on, the Unison leadership never once mentioned anything about the branches being "ineffective". Now, as soon as the bans from holding union office are implemented on the four, members across London are told a total lie to justify the shocking measures taken.
At the Defend the Four meeting after the protest there was standing room only as we heard the shocking details from three of the four: Suzanne Muna, Glenn Kelly and Onay Kasab. Theirs are amongst the biggest, best organised and most effective branches in London in fighting for their members.
As Kaz explained, there are Unison branches in London with extremely small levels of membership - but because they are run by right-wingers, they are deemed to be effective!
But now, in Greenwich, the doors of the Unison office are guarded by security guards. In Bromley, the branch has been told they cannot attend the union's national conference. In all cases, meetings have been cancelled, the treasurers are not allowed to sign cheques, the administrators are not allowed access to membership records and elected officers are even told they are not allowed to represent members in individual cases.
Glenn reported that in Bromley, while poring over the minutiae of branch spending in the search for non-existent evidence of wrong-doing, the unelected officials are spending branch funds on unnecessary new equipment for their own use.
Bill Mullins, national industrial organiser of the Socialist Party, put the witch-hunt into context. "This is a pre-emptive strike at national level because the union leaders know that what is coming is the biggest attack upon conditions and jobs since the 1920s. It is a scorched earth policy; they would rather wreck the union than have it fall into the hands of a socialist leadership."
It is important that a left Unison general secretary candidate should say clearly that the union needs to break the link with Labour and that we need a new workers' party. The Four are backing Roger Bannister for general secretary as he supports these positions. Bill also explained about the new working class electoral coalition for the upcoming general elections, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
All of the speakers stressed that the most important question is, 'where we go from here?' As Glenn and Kaz explained, Socialist Party members argue for everyone to stay in the union and fight to reclaim it. But we cannot be stuck in aspic as events change around us - the most important issue is for workers to be able to organise effectively and with decent leadership in the battles to come.