Sunday, November 19, 2006
When I say support Tony I do not of course mean the wrong Tony.
Our trade union movement depends upon the voluntary effort of thousands of lay activists, some of whom are motivated by their political beliefs. One such activist is Tony Staunton (pictured).
Tony Staunton is Branch Secretary of City of Plymouth UNISON Local Government Branch,and has held various elected positions in the South West Region in over 10 years of UNISON activism. He is the Secretary of Plymouth Trade Union Council (TUC).
Tony has represented UNISON internationally as a member of a Human Rights Delegation to South West Colombia in 2001, protests against the G8 in Genoa and Gleneagles, protests against the World Trade Organisation in Nice and Geneva, the European Social Forums in Florence, Paris and London, and the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Mumbai and Caracas.
He has led successful strike actions against cuts to social services and privatisation, with Plymouth City Council being the least privatised council in the South West of England.
Tony is also a founding member of the Nuclear Free Coalition supported by CND, dedicated to the scrapping of Trident and all nuclear weapons.
Over the past few years he has driven campaigns against neo-liberalism, climate change and ID cards winning UNISON policy initiatives at national Conferences.
Typically, Tony travelled up to London for the NHS Together lobby of Parliament on 1 November. Whilst he was there unannounced, a team of senior regional officials entered the UNISON offices on the ground floor of Plymouth’s Civic Centre on at 11:00am, having first confirmed he was in London leading a delegation to lobby Plymouth MP against NHS cuts. All information on the office computers was downloaded, the Branch Administrator and Treasurer questioned, and all records and financial documents taken away.
Apparently this shocking episode arose from a complaint to the General Secretary of UNISON following the UNISON South West Regional Council on 8th October 2006 which stated that a 2-sided A4 colour newsletter of the UNISON UNITED Left South West was allegedly printed using UNISON resources outside of the union’s Rules.
Now the Union is seeking to take possession of computers which are Tony’s own personal property, having been given to him in the past by the trade union branch in line with long standing past practice.
Tony, who was already under investigation for walking out of the TUC in September when Blair began to speak, is being threatened with further disciplinary investigation. In what must just be an unfortunate coincidence, these events have occurred shortly after Tony announced his intention to seek election to the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC).
It is very regrettable that the Union should expose itself to the perception that there may be an intention in some quarters to derail left-wing challengers for NEC seats.
Although I respect and admire Tony as an activist, I don’t share his politics (he is a member of RESPECT and of the Socialist Workers Party whereas I am proud to have been in the Labour Party for twenty six years). However, I don’t share the childish sectarianism of some of those (not all loyal Labour Party members themselves) who favour knee-jerk opposition to those who are members of other left-wing parties.
We need the active unity of all those who are opposed to privatisation, cuts and attacks on our pensions. There is no future for our Union in an approach of seeking quietly to influence a hostile Government – and our members should have the option of voting in Union elections for candidates who will offer an alternative approach. Avoidable internal strife has weakened us before and would do so again.
Tony is a great asset to our trade union, and I hope that our members in the South West Region will be offered a fair chance to decide for themselves whether or not to support him. I hope that common sense prevails and that we do not need to launch a major campaign in Tony’s defence. We need our energies to defend our pensions and our health service!