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Socialism 2008


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From: The Socialist issue 557, 19 November 2008: ‘We’re not taking these job cuts’

Search site for keywords: Unison - Witch-hunt - Greenwich - Socialist - The Socialist - Socialist Party - Onay Kasab - Labour Party - Socialism - Socialism 2008 - Labour - Strike - Election - Hackney - Housing

Drop the witch-hunt in Unison fight to Defend trade union democracy

Lobby of Unison disciplinary hearings against the four Socialist Party members, here joined by the Hackney Unison branch secretary, photo Alison Hill

Lobby of Unison disciplinary hearings against the four Socialist Party members, here joined by the Hackney Unison branch secretary, photo Alison Hill

The Socialist has reported extensively on the witch-hunt in Unison. In June 2007, the Unison bureaucracy launched a disciplinary investigation into five union officers. They were attacked for daring to print and publish a leaflet criticising the union leadership for blocking the union conference's right to debate issues such as the funding of the Labour Party, the election of full time officials and control over strike action.
Four of the five under investigation - all Socialist Party members - are now facing a disciplinary hearing. These are: Glenn Kelly, national executive member, Onay Kasab, Greenwich branch secretary, Suzanne Muna, Housing Corporation branch secretary and Brian Debus, Hackney branch chair. Onay Kasab ('Kaz') spoke at the opening rally of the Socialist Party's Socialism 2008 weekend. This is part of his speech:
Onay Kasab, facing a witchhunt in 2008, photo Paul Mattsson

Onay Kasab, facing a witchhunt in 2008, photo Paul Mattsson

"On 24 November myself and three others will be facing a disciplinary hearing. Not from our employers, from our own trade union. I expected that at some point, after twelve years as a branch secretary, my employer might have a go at me. But I didn't expect my trade union to do it.

But I will say this, we are guilty of something. We are guilty of demanding that trade unions break from New Labour. We are guilty of demanding the election of all union officials. We are guilty of demanding democracy not bureaucracy.

But we are not guilty of the slurs. We are accused of racism because we used the ancient Buddhist proverb of the three wise monkeys to describe our union leaders. How dare they level charges of racism against Socialist Party members? It's our comrades who time after time have led campaign after campaign against racism and the fascists.

Lately we found out that the union leadership themselves have been using the image of the three wise monkeys. When I said I wanted to use that union leaflet as part of my case, I was told that they would not admit that evidence!

The hearing on 24 November will take place at the Hilton Metropole hotel. Once again union bureaucrats will be put up at a cost of thousands of pounds to hear our case over five days.

Why is this witch hunt happening? It is happening because the trade union bureaucracy, the right wing, New Labour, have no answers. They have no answers to the economic crisis that the bosses want us to pay for.

And it is happening because Socialist Party members articulate the anger felt by union members as a result of the failures by trade union officials. And it is happening because there are elections next year for the national executive and they are petrified they will lose their seats.

We are guilty of fighting for our members. We are guilty of fighting for services and saving jobs. The right wing have much to fear, there is a mood to fight."

>>View video of Onay Kasab's speech (10:05 mins)


An extract from one letter of support sent to Unison leader Dave Prentis by members of Greenwich Unison:

"We are particularly grateful to Kaz this year. As team leaders we have been fighting a campaign to get an upgrade in our pay scale... We are very happy to say that our employers finally caved in... and made us an offer of a £3,000 lump sum which we were happy to accept. Kaz was at the forefront of these negotiations and although the money was offered in April it took Kaz threatening to take this to members before our money was finally paid on 3 October 2008. It has been a long and arduous battle and without Kaz's unfailing good humour, advice and support we may have given up.

We have much to be grateful to Kaz for and we strongly urge you to allow Kaz to remain as our branch secretary - he is committed to his job, is fair and honest and a brilliant negotiator."

The team leaders, Greenwich Neighbourhood Services

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

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