Sunday, November 19, 2006

Support Tony!


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!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

get a lawyer onto it pronto - these petty bureaucrats think they can make up the rules as they go along but they can't

Matthew said...

I have met Tony a few times in connection with support for Colombian trade unionists and he has been fantastic. As I am a UNISON member as well, any suggestions as to how he can be helped Jon?

Anonymous said...

Bureaucrats and rules -they always make them up as they go along.

But the actions taken by UNISON Gauleiters in this instance is reprehensible and should be condemned. They have identified themselves as brown shirted bully boys -and that is no excuse for anything. What is next -burn the rule book to exorcise any accountability within UNISON?

A very sad day when so much plotting and manipulation goes on to attack and try to destroy activists when we are fighting for pension rights and against privatisation.

Why are the officials being paid from our subs when they obviously want to spend money, time and energy to persecute activists when they -the officials - cravenly kowtow to a government that keeps stringing them along?
Let's change the rule book and make sure we have accountability and responsibility from these crazy 'officials' - who act far too much like characters from the Mikado.

Anonymous said...

We agree honorarium at our AGM annually. If Tony's members agreed at their AGM that their hard earned subs would be well spent gifting him a computer and a laptop for his UNISON activities they must be very generous! If not I must question, is it in the power of the branch to decide to spend such a substantial about of members subs on equipment to be used partly to further the political ambitions of the United Left et al? And where does this leave the union on the legal issues surrounding political activity being funded by members subs?