Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Draconian punishment for an ill-judged leaflet

The four UNISON activists disciplined for their criticisms of UNISON's Standing Orders Committee in an ill-judged leaflet two years ago (and for not anticipating that this might have caused offence) have, I understand, been banned from holding office for three years.

Under UNISON's Rules such sanctions are held in abeyance pending any appeal, so the eventual outcome of this case is not yet known. It is to be hoped that common sense will have a further opportunity to break out.

In the mean time there will be those who allege that this is a politically motivated attack upon left wing critics of UNISON's leadership and there will be those who will be moved to outrage by such perceived slurs upon the integrity of our Union's disciplinary process (as were a majority of my NEC colleagues a couple of weeks ago). It is a controversial suggestion that the disciplinary procedure of a trade union may be misused for political reasons.

However, having myself been on the receiving end of what appeared to be attempted political misuse of UNISON's disciplinary process some years ago, I do regret with real feeling what our Union is now doing to these four members.

I don't think that it was unreasonable for the Union to conduct a formal investigation once a complaint had been made about a leaflet which did offend some who saw it. I felt very much the same nine years ago when an employment tribunal found me responsible for race and sex discrimination (against a white man).

An investigation by the Union was warranted but formal disciplinary action was not. In the end, in my own case, the intervention of sensible people over ruling other people produced that sensible outcome.

As I understand it, the original investigation involved five activists allegedly involved in the production of the leaflet in question. Four faced disciplinary action, One did not. Four were members of a particular left-wing political organisation. One was not. The one exception was the same exception in each case.

As a former General Secretary nearly said to National Delegate Conference in 1998, if it walks like a politically motivated witch hunt and it quacks like a politically motivated witch hunt...


Anonymous said...

so issuing rascist leaflets at Conference is ok then,no matter what political party or grouping you are in. Stop digging Del Boy ,or was it Rodney ??


Anonymous said...

In all of the propaganda issued by the CWI/Socialist Party linked to this case they fail to acknowledge throughout that the Chair of the UNISON SOC is a black man. That single ommission says a lot about why this matter has escalated.
The issue of the fifth member originally investigated is also a red herring. Until the case is concluded how do we know why he wasn't subject to disiplinary charges? The idea that it can be reduced to SP membership is quite frankly laughable - unless that explains why he wasn't involved? Who knows?
I'm surprised you buy that nonsense Jon without access to the hearing documents.
I look forward to the full facts of the case being published.

Anonymous said...

The fact is the national union should have expelled these people who think they can act against the rules of a club (a union in this instance) they wish to be members of. Let this be a lesson to the few ultra leftists. I want to see more investigations and I want those who do not want to take union discipline out!


TonyC said...

You just don't get it.

The failure to acknowledge the basic fact that monkey images lampooning a committee chaired by a black man will be seen by some as racist - no matter how unwittingly it was generated - is at its core racist.

Denial of such fundamental realities is sickening.

That the image and caption continues tobe used by these people is beneath disgust (pace Mark Turner).


TonyC said...

I'm not saying you are personally in denial Jon. Too serious for subjectivism.

Fair play mate you in a principled way say that the vile Socialist Party leaflet was 'ill judged'.

But mucker you don't say precisely why it was ill judged?

And we know that it was ill judged because it was targetting a committee led by a black man.

So why evade that truth?


Anonymous said...

It's in the detail....I understand you Jon. I just hope those who have not read the details but feel free to make ridiculous comments are not trade union reps.

No matter how they want to try & dress this up, it is a witch hunt and is doing our union no good. IF you can't take criticism what are you doing in a trade union?
As for this ultra left paranoia is quite frankly shameful. We are facing the biggest test public services have every faced and we go and boot out four hardworking activists, who belong to a politial party.

Does this mean we hve to check out members personal politics before accepting them into membership?Apart from the BNP, which other parties would we want to add?

This madness must stop......we don't have enough hard wrking reps as it is....grow up we have a real fight on our hands.

John Burgess
Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I find the idea that the chair of the SOC or anyone else found the leaflet racially offensive naive to say the least. their objection to the leaflet was purely political, basically because it pointed out that he and the rest of the SOC were acting in the interests of the LP and union tops and not the union as a whole. The idea that the lefleat was an ill judged mistake being punished too harshly is a cop out. There should have been no investigation in the 1st place and the whole 2 year process has been complete disgrace. The only mistake the 5 made in my view is that they offered to apologise because they have nothing to apologise for.


Anonymous said...

Jon, You are correct to state that the content of the leflet and the assumption that it is offensive may not be right. The fact remains the trots that constantly refuse to follow the line and try to get publicity out of any event or incident is that they have a 0.01% following and they should be treated with the respect that deserves. I understand that you are facing a similar situation is your branch? An insignificant minority bullies and harrass people by going off to do things against policies and democratic decisions and rules we have arrived at over years of debate and development at national conference. Are you saying they should be allowed to be offensive, disruptive and harrass ordinary members? How would you deal with them?


Anonymous said...

Jon - you say it was ill judged. You even say it was right to be investigated.

But you and other people have been banging on about this being a witch hunt right from the very beginning.

And I've never heard the four ever acknowledge it was ill judged or show any contrition whatsoever.

The stop the witch hunt website does not acknowledge it was ill judged.

I am pretty certain that if a manager in Glen's branch (or any of the others' branches) had used this imagery and it had offended a black member Glen would have gone in hard on the manager. Especially if said manager did not acknowledge the offence caused.

Maybe this has been blown up. I can't say as I don't have all the facts, only the NEC panel does.

But the the four have been arrogant beyond belief by claiming its a witch hunt without once publicly acknowledging the offence caused. It's the same old leftie blind faith that they are right overriding any common sense.

Scrappy Doo