Thursday, July 03, 2008

Taking sides in defence of a sacked activist

I was appalled – though not surprised – to hear that UNISON activist Yunus Bakhsh had been sacked by his employer following a disciplinary hearing at which he was not well enough to attend.

I won’t go in here to the details of every aspect of Yunus’ case. For one thing UNISON has an outstanding appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal against a decision of the Certification Officer than the Union had unlawfully suspended Yunus from his trade union positions.

I’ll have more to say about that later.

I am not writing this post right now to comment on disputes within the Union.

There are sometimes disputes within the Union – but I strongly believe that when the employer attacks an activist you close ranks. That’s what we should do now.

People who are familiar with the history of the Lambeth branch of UNISON in recent years will know that myself and other officers of that branch closed ranks when one of our activists was attacked a few years ago.

We did so in spite of profound disagreements over tactics, in spite of well-founded criticisms of the conduct of that activist (later substantiated and supported by an independent public inquiry) and in spite of facing what we believed to be (and I believe have been shown to have been) entirely unjustified allegations against ourselves and the Union.

When our branch activist was dismissed by the employer (having failed to accept the advice of branch officers and having made unwarranted attacks upon the Union) we worked with a dedicated and effective Regional Officer to submit an application to the employment tribunal for interim relief.

We did this because we knew which side we were on.

When it came to the crunch, in a dispute between the employer and a union activist, we took sides. We did not allow our political disagreements or personal criticisms to get in the way of supporting a fellow trade unionist who needed our support.

The application for interim relief was not successful – perhaps it was a long shot – but we made it and we were right to make it.

Now Yunus Bakhsh has been sacked – and every trade unionist faces a similar choice.

Are we on the side of the sacked trade unionist or the side of the employer who has dismissed him? (For trade unionists there is a right answer and a wrong answer to this question and there simply is no middle ground).


Anonymous said...

I agree. I don't know this man, or the activist in your Branch, but I know that supporting our union colleagues is the right thing to do!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you Jon and applaud you for voicing this. When a trade union activist is sacked, or bullied, or victimised or marginalised by the employer, it is every union members duty to support that activist. It most certainly is the Trade Union's principled moral duty to close ranks, come out fighting, and fully support that activist. UNISON need to be reminded of this. UNISON need to be reminded that it is the front line activists that lay their jobs on the line every single day - and UNISON must - absolutely must - put all squabbles and politics aside in order to fully support and fight for the rights of their activists! Let's hope they do it this time.

Once again - well done Jon - and well done Lambeth UNISON for standing up for what's right.