Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/776/17233
Defend the Four: Tribunal compensation award to Unison activists
Glenn Kelly, Unison (personal capacity)
On 9 August, after six tortuous years, an employment tribunal dealing with the Unison leadership's illegal banning of the 'Socialist Party Four' from office issued its judgement as to what compensation Unison would have to pay.
The financial compensation follows a 2011 ruling that found the union leadership guilty of "unjustifiable" disciplinary action against the four activists for producing a leaflet complaining about branch resolutions being excluded from the 2007 Unison conference.
Given that the average pay-out for a worker from a tribunal is about £4,000, the tribunal's decision to award £49,000 in total to the four shows how serious the union's actions were viewed.
The court also awarded aggravated damages against Unison for its treatment of me, saying: "That we are satisfied that the conduct of the respondent (Unison) amounted to high-handed, malicious and oppressive conduct and we decided in the case of Mr Kelly to award an additional award for aggravated damages."
Agreeing the damages the court found all four activists to be "committed and dedicated trade unionists, elected by the members and who had devoted either the whole or a large part of their working life to advising and representing their members and their interests at regional and national level".
Despite this, in an attempt to diminish its actions, the union bureaucracy had tried to argue in the court case that the damage done to us was minimal as we were 'Marxists and Socialist Party members and were used to the rough and tumble of political life'.
The court responded by saying: "We do not accept that the claimants' political beliefs and or activities made them in some way impervious or immune to hurt caused by the action of the respondents".
Alongside the ban, we also had to face our branches being taken into regional administration. All along the union tried to say the two events weren't related.
However, the court rejected this saying: "It is inconceivable that there was no link between the claimants being banned and the branches being taken into regional administration."
In reference to the raids by union officials on the offices of the affected branches the tribunal said: "It was done in a way to cause the maximum humiliation to the claimants".
Given these findings, the question still remains: Who will be held to account inside Unison for spending six years attacking dedicated union activists and wasting literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of our members' money?
Four Socialist Party members - Glenn Kelly, Suzanne Muna, Onay Kasab and Brian Debus - were subjected to a sustained witch-hunt by the union bureaucracy after leafleting Unison conference in 2007.
They were falsely accused of racism and banned from holding office in the union for between two and three years each.
An employment tribunal ruled that Unison acted illegally. The union appealed against the original decision and lost.
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