Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/551/6480
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.
In The Socialist 8 October 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news