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Unison leadership found guilty of "unjustifiable discipline" against four Socialist Party activists
Victory for the Unison four!
Once again, the Unison leadership has been found guilty of "unjustifiable" disciplinary action against four activists for producing a leaflet protesting about the exclusion of resolutions from the 2007 Unison conference.
Today an Employment Appeal Tribunal (Judge Michael Supperstone QC) upheld the unanimous judgment of an earlier Employment Tribunal (Employment Judge Ms H Grewal, 27 January 2011).
That ET judgment last year rejected false allegations of racism against the four and found that the real reason for disciplinary action was that they had issued a leaflet criticising the Standing Orders Committee and the union leadership for preventing discussion on the issue of union democracy.
Today's EAT rejects all five grounds on which the Unison leadership appealed against last year's ET judgment.
The four activists who were disciplined by Unison were banned from holding any union office for up to three years.
The four are Glenn Kelly (formerly Bromley branch secretary and NEC member), Onay Kasab (formerly Greenwich branch secretary), Brian Debus (formerly Hackney branch chairperson), and Suzanne Muna (formerly Housing Corporation branch secretary).
The judgments of the ET and the EAT completely vindicate the four's struggle to defend union democracy.
The unjustified sanctions against the four are part of a wider witch-hunt being carried out by the Unison leadership against activists fighting for union democracy and effective action to defend public services, jobs, pay and conditions.
There is now a rising tide of discontent within the union at the ineffective policies of the leadership when faced with a tsunami of attacks on the public sector.
The Unison leadership unscrupulously tried to bolster their disciplinary charges with allegations of racism.
This related to a cartoon on the leaflet protesting about the Standing Orders Committee's suppression of over 50 resolutions that used the well-known image of three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
The ET judgment forcefully rejected the allegation of racism: "All four Claimants are committed anti-racists and have fought against racism.
"They quite reasonably assumed that anyone who saw the leaflet would understand the cartoon to be saying that the SOC was out of touch in closing its minds to and ignoring issues that concern the membership."
"Looking at the context in which the cartoon was used (i.e. to depict the attitude of the SOC towards controversial motions) it cannot be said that any reasonable person would or should have realised that it would cause racial offence, and that not doing so was somehow 'careless'.
That is reinforced by the fact that [it] never occurred to many people who saw the cartoon before its publication. These individuals included an Equalities and Diversity officer and black members."
Incredibly, during the case, it was discovered that Unison's own lawyers had used a cartoon of the three wise monkeys.
The tribunal found that the main reason for disciplinary action against the four was that they produced a leaflet criticising the SOC for rejecting a large number of branch resolutions.
It is estimated that the Unison leadership must have spent at least £100,000 on the disciplinary hearings and tribunal cases.
At a time when the focus should have been on fighting public-sector cuts, the four have been dragged through four years of tortuous, money-wasting investigations and hearings.
Glenn Kelly, one of the four, is demanding that the witch-hunts must stop, and the four branches be taken out of regional administration so that the members can run their branches.
Also that the bans on the four should be rescinded and the latest charge against Glenn should be withdrawn.
Glenn urges UNISON to fight the Con-Dem government instead of hardworking union activists.
For more info phone: 07595 352 795
A Defend the Four press release
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 22 February 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.