Sometimes we also have to defend trade union activists under attack from within our own movement.
At a meeting of the Lambeth UNISON Branch Committee this morning, activists were shocked to hear details of internal disciplinary action being threatened within UNISON against five London activists facing allegations of racism in connection with a leaflet critical of the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) at last year’s UNISON Conference.
The leaflet used the graphic of “three wise monkeys” (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) to illustrate reasoned criticism of the enthusiasm with which the SOC was ruling out of order contentious or controversial motions for debate at the Conference. Some delegates felt that the use of this graphic was racist.
This is the sort of dispute that can all too easily crop up at a trade union Conference – and that is where it should have been resolved. If delegates were offended then the branches concerned could have been asked to apologise since it was clear that they never intended to offend.
Instead the Union has launched into a formal disciplinary investigation – and the possibility of disciplinary action against the activists. The five officers, under investigation are Glenn Kelly NEC member and Bromley branch secretary, Onay Kasab, Greenwich Branch secretary, Brian Debus and Matthew Waterfall, Hackney branch chair and secretary respectively and Suzanne Muna, housing corporation branch secretary.
One thing these five have in common is that they – and their branches – are leftwing critics of the Union leadership. To take formal disciplinary action over this matter would be so grossly disproportionate that it would appear to be politically motivated. I am afraid that this is not the only example of over the top disciplinary action against left wing activists within the Union. (You might almost think that elements of the Union leadership lack the confidence that they can win an argument with the left in front of the membership and are resorting to administrative measures to silence critics!)
UNISON activists need to make very clear that any such unwarranted and unjustified political attack would lead to a strong, united and wide ranging response. UNISON needs to concentrate upon defending our members interests – not on witch hunting socialists. Further details are online here.