"AN ATTACK on one of us is an attack on all of us." With these words branch secretary John Page expressed the anger of the vast majority of the 250 members attending the Hackney UNISON branch meeting on 16 August following the sacking of Noah Tucker.
Brian Debus and Richard Brunner were reinstated after being suspended a week earlier but the dismissal of Noah is clearly another attempt to break the strength of the union, and to create a climate of fear among UNISON activists and members. Noah is an active shop steward and was chief negotiator during the dispute between UNISON and Hackney council management.
The branch committee proposed a ballot for industrial strike action and to demand Noah Tucker's reinstatement.
No one questioned the proposal, the vote was unanimous and greeted with cheers. This is even more significant as the struggle in Hackney has occurred under more difficult conditions recently.
This is because the leadership of the GMB and the TGWU unions have decided to accept a deal with major setbacks in terms and conditions thus dividing the workforce. Another factor is the UNISON regional office's attitude, which has attempted to pressurise Hackney UNISON to discontinue action against the new terms and conditions. This has led to growing anger among members about the role of the regional office and of the national UNISON leadership.
Regional officer Eddy Coulson's attempt to convince the mass meeting to return "to negotiating with management" was received with shaking heads and disbelief. A Social Services shop steward expressed most workers' view: "You are asking us to go back to negotiating. But how can we negotiate with a management which sacks our chief negotiator?"
Hackney UNISON members are even more critical of the regional office now that in the midst of the dispute the regional office has made unspecified allegations against the present Hackney union leadership.
Despite the union's auditors having recently expressed confidence in the accounts, the office is now launching an investigation into the branch finances. In contrast, last year the regional office refused to look into the accounts of the previous branch leadership, even though £ 20,000 had gone missing.
A unanimous motion was passed expressing confidence in the elected branch secretary and calling for the issue to be raised at the next regional conference.
Clearly the national UNISON leadership is not happy and does not agree with the decisive stand and industrial strike action. of Hackney UNISON against the cuts.
At the last two Hackney branch meetings, members have expressed strong dissatisfaction with national UNISON. Several speakers explained that once the management in Hackney is successful with carrying through cuts, the same will happen in other councils.
There is a strong feeling among Hackney UNISON members that the national union should organise a joint campaign against cuts and privatisation throughout Britain, rather than leaving each branch to fight on its own.
Hackney Socialist Party is fully backing UNISON's struggle to reinstate Noah Tucker.