Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/601/8353
Unison witch-hunt: Defend the Four campaign gets a boost
Four Socialist Party members - Onay Kasab, Glenn Kelly, Brian Debus and Suzanne Muna - are facing bans from holding office in Unison, ranging from three to five years. This was as a result of a leaflet distributed at Unison conference over two years ago!
The four are in the process of appealing against this scandalous action by the Unison leadership.
They are also taking their case to an employment tribunal on the basis that they have been discriminated against because of their political and philosophical views.
Five branch officers were originally investigated, but only the four officers who are also members of the Socialist Party were subject to disciplinary hearings and charges.
The recent high profile legal case, Grainger plc and others, involving a worker who has been told he can take his employer to court on the grounds that he was dismissed because of his views on climate change, is a significant legal breakthrough for the campaign.
Our campaign is using the same legislation, claiming that the four have been discriminated against because of their philosophical beliefs - ie Marxism and Trotskyism - beliefs held by members of the Socialist Party. It is significant that the judge in the above case stated: "Belief in the political philosophies of socialism, Marxism, communism... might qualify."
The campaign to defend the four is going from strength to strength. But the campaign has never relied on legal action alone - that is why the campaign continues to ask for support in the following ways:
- Letters of protest to Unison general secretary Dave Prentis: Unison HQ, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send copies to: Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG or email: email@example.com
- Unison Appeal Hearings: Please attend the lobby on Monday 16 November at the Holiday Inn, Carburton Street, London, which is the first day of Kas's hearing. There will also be a lobby for Suzanne's first day - Thursday 19 November at the same venue. Brian's hearing starts on 11 January, the venue is not yet known. The results of the appeals will not be announced until all the hearings have taken place.
- Employment Tribunal - the next dates are: 15-18 December. Supporters can attend: London Central Employment Tribunal, Ground Floor, Victory House, 30-34 Kingsway, London WC2.
Other events, meetings and protests are being planned. Please check out the website www.stopthewitchhunt.org.uk.
Unison members' reaction
"Dear Mr Prentis, I have recently heard that Unison have decided to ban Onay Kasab our branch official for three years. This has made me so very angry that I have considered giving up my Unison membership."
These are the words of a Greenwich Unison member, responding to the union banning Onay Kasab for three years from holding any Unison office. This reaction has been replicated in workplaces across the council. The news was greeted with shock, not just by Unison members but also by many senior council officers.
The response from Unison members has been magnificent. In fact the witch-hunt has shown just how much support exists amongst ordinary workers for the leadership of the branch.
The campaign to defend the leadership of the branch has gone hand in hand with continuing to fight for Unison members in Greenwich.
The branch has been campaigning on behalf of staff working in adult services facing pay cuts of over £5,000 per year, fighting for plumbers facing cuts of up to 50% in some of their prices, and fighting compulsory redundancies in schools and the proposals from the council to turn Eltham Green school into a Trust.
The branch has also been campaigning on behalf of social workers in the 'children at risk' emergency teams, heroically struggling with unmanageable and dangerously high caseloads.
The members in Greenwich have seen for themselves that, while the branch continues to fight for its members, the national union leadership are more interested in looking after their own positions and making the union safe for Labour. That is the real reason for the witch-hunt.
In The Socialist 11 November 2009:
War and occupation
Postal workers strike
Defend the four campaign
Campaign for a New Workers Party
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party review