Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/608/8727
Angry reaction to Unison witch-hunt
Four Socialist Party members who are members of Unison, Brian Debus, Glenn Kelly, Suzanne Muna and Onay Kasab, are being witch-hunted by their own union. At the moment the outcome of their appeals to Unison against suspensions from holding union office is awaited, as is the decision of an Employment Tribunal.
Hundreds of angry Unison members and other trade unionists have complained to Unison's leadership during the course of the witch-hunt. These are excerpts from a few of their emails and letters.
"I write to express my disappointment at the union's decision to ban someone like Brian who has worked tirelessly to support staff in Hackney for so many years.
I am not a particularly political person but I would defend anyone's right to vote and campaign freely and without prejudice or sanction...
Having been a Unison member for over 13 years I am now questioning whether this is a group I would want to belong to."
"I have never heard a complaint about [Brian] from other people. I could not believe that he could be accused of committing a racist offence even by his own trade union. I myself cannot accept any such accusations against him as a member of this union."
Hackney Unison members
"I have followed the disciplinary case against Onay Kasab aka Kas with some interest particularly as I have been a member of Greenwich Unison for about 16 years.
I was shocked to find out that he has been suspended from holding office for three years.
Although I don't share his politics 100% I have found Kas to be a very hard-working trade unionist and a very able branch secretary. I have seen quotes from the likes of Rory Bremner and Mark Thomas that Unison is making itself look foolish, stupid and authoritarian and I agree with them."
"I am very worried that the integrity of our union is under threat. My opinion is that this is a flagrant misuse of my union subscription for political cleansing.
I would ask you what measures are being taken to ensure a democratic union? I would ask you what measures are being taken to ensure a legal, even-handed and respectful union?"
Greenwich Unison members
"I would have thought that the union should respect the democratic wishes of the ordinary members who have repeatedly re-elected them [the witch-hunted four].
The disciplinary committee are out of touch with the members and are themselves bringing the union into disrepute in the eyes of the members whose actual jobs, wages and conditions are under the worst attack we have faced in decades.
The only people who will take solace from this are the out of touch NEC members and the bosses. It will do nothing to inspire the members I represent that the union leadership is serious about fighting the real enemy - the bosses and government who are trying to cut the jobs, wages and conditions."
Ronnie Stevenson, Glasgow Unison, personal capacity
"I hear today that the four have been found guilty, this beggars belief! This decision could have a profoundly negative effect on members, many of whom in my own branch are totally disillusioned with the union nationally and would view this as no more than a bloody minded and spiteful attack on four honest and genuine union representatives who have a proud record of standing up for their members' interests no matter what their ethnic background.
Maybe that was their true crime, because by their actions in fighting for the most vulnerable in society, for fighting against low wages and privatisation, and by their past record of fighting and putting real alternatives to the scourge of the BNP and of exposing the fraud that is New Labour, they have shamed a spineless and impotent union bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that despite recent sound bites is in shameful collusion with a morally bankrupt New Labour government, and offers no alternative to the issues that affect the day to day existence of ordinary - dare I say - working class people, ...but then life is just more comfortable that way isn't it?"
A Unison health member
"I have been appalled over the last few years at the lengths to which certain people in Unison have gone to try to discredit Glenn Kelly and his three colleagues.
I am a Unison member in Bromley and have always thought the charges spurious, brought to fulfil some hidden agenda.
Now the tribunal has revealed that certain people do have a hidden agenda - I ask you to immediately organise an independent enquiry into the allegations...
Our union must be shown to be democratic and fair and above board in all its dealings otherwise people will leave in droves over this and good people will be unwilling to stand for office. How can we stand against other organisations/people where unfairness and dishonesty rule when we are just as bad?"
A Bromley Unison member
"We cannot afford to lose the input of these activists with a Conservative government on the horizon. At present we are fighting job cuts, offshoring and low pay rises in our industry. These are our priorities, not spending Unison resources investigating so-called rule breaches like this one."
Unison South West Gas branch committee
"The racism slur does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny and would be almost comical, were it not so damaging to the good names of these activists and the sentence returned so severe.
As for the charge of attacking the integrity of the Standing Orders Committee, I cannot see that this serves any purpose; least of all Unison or the Committee themselves.
What has Unison got to fear from open debate? Dragging names through mud on trumped up charges and the crushing of dissenting voices are not the sign of a strong organisation at ease with itself."
"I am urging you to remove the charges from my branch secretary and the other three activists. On a personal level, I would not want to continue to belong to a union which treats its members in this mean spirited and manifestly unjust way."
Unison, Tenant Services Authority members
In The Socialist 20 January 2010:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party review