Friday, March 06, 2009

Fight the victimisation of UNISON activists

As I am on leave for the day I have been thinking about fellow trade unionists experiencing enforced leisure thanks to their victimisation by the employers. I’ve blogged before (and soon will again) about the long running case of victimised nurse Yunus Bakhsh, sacked on trumped up charges which have already been discredited.

Unfortunately in recent weeks three more good UNISON activists have shared his fate. My fellow UNISON NEC member John McDermott has been sacked by East and North East Leeds Housing and – in a worrying indication that other new providers of social housing also want to pick a fight with their staff, respected Tower Hamlets UNISON activist Debbie Cordroy has been dismissed by One Housing Group. It tells you all you need to know about John that he was speaking in support of Debbie the evening before he got the result of his own case. UNISON members in Leeds have taken strike action in support of John and members in Tower Hamlets will be balloting for action to support Debbie following a very effective public meeting.

This week Jose Stalin Bermudez, Chair of the UNISON Branch at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and leading campaigner against low pay and for justice for migrant workers, has been sacked. SOAS boast on their website of “a long and distinguished history of widening the horizons of its students and helping them gain the skills needed for careers in an increasingly international environment” – happily the students have had their horizons widened enough already to be supporting UNISON and UCU members who want to fight this victimisation. The UNISON branch will be seeking a strike ballot and I am sure that action will be taken if SOAS do not back down.

In all these cases employers will claim some spurious justification for what is really an attack upon vocal and effective organisers. The employers will seek to pursue these cases behind the closed doors of disciplinary and appeal hearings and cajole the Union into settling at best for paltry compensation. UNISON needs to stand firm against these victimisations or in the coming year of recession we will see many more such cases.

We need public campaigns in which we make clear that we will not bow to bullying from the employers.

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