Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Unison should stop attacking our own members

Regular readers (Sid and Doris Left-Reformist) will know that I sometimes blog about what I see as the political misuse of UNISON's disciplinary rules.

For those who may be persuaded that the current UNISON administration is of the "progressive left" and deserves uncritical support I thought I should bring together a few points worth thinking about.

As I have made clear in comments on this blog before I was once myself the subject of a disciplinary investigation by UNISON (under the previous General Secretary).

I had been found by an employment tribunal to have discriminated on grounds of race and sex against a white man whose complaints of race and sex discrimination (the tribunal found) I treated less seriously than I would have had he been black or female. Though I had denied this with the support and advice of the trade union, the tribunal found against us.

No sane person would have thought that the Union would attack me over this - but I am a bit of an awkward cuss sometimes and not every union official thinks that is a good thing...

An officer conducted the subsequent disciplinary investigation into me and did not recommend that I should be disciplined. Another officer then changed the recommendations of the report and a disciplinary investigation would have commenced against me had a - then - newly elected General Secretary not intervened to stop this.

That newly elected General Secretary is our current General Secretary and for the first few years of his tenure the blatantly politically motivated misuse of the Union's disciplinary procedure ceased. Unfortunately that has changed.

Tony Staunton was expelled on the basis of allegations of misappropriation of UNISON resources. (Not all cases of misappropriation of resources are dealt with quite so severely). Tony of course had the misfortune to be both a member of the Socialist Workers Party and am electoral threat to a prominent member of our National Executive Council.

Another Socialist Workers Party member, Yunus Bakhsh, was expelled in circumstances which cast very grave doubt upon all those who acted against him. Like Tony, Yunus (a former member of our National Executive Council - NEC) was an electoral threat in that he might well have been re-elected to the NEC.

Four members of the Socialist Party have been the subject of a quite high profile case of disciplinary action over the production of a contested leaflet - and, whilst the final outcome of this is awaited I should point out that one of the four, my friend Glenn Kelly, is a current member of the NEC.

Now there are those with influence in our trade union who may not be that troubled to see people whom they consider "Trotskyists" getting a bit of stick - but then this sort of intolerance doesn't stop once it has got a few "trot" scalps. People who have been on the bad end of witch hunts need to recognise them when they stare us in the face.

Independently minded left wing activists such as Caroline Bedale and Alan Docherty have been banned from holding office for long enough to take them past retirement because they have offended influential supporters of the current UNISON leadership.

I deeply regret that our current General Secretary (whom I personally like and respect and always have) has plainly signed up in support of this approach to internal UNISON discipline and has therefore abandoned the person he was when he stopped the unjustifiable attack upon myself.

UNISON's internal regime in recent years brings no credit upon anyone.

Anyone who thinks that they can describe themselves as part of the progressive left and wants to express their support for the current leadership of our Union needs to explain how they justify the villification of activists such as Caroline and Alan (not to mention the other comrades).

I believe that all thinking socialists know that this cannot be done.

The time for change has come.

Will comrades from positive and progressive traditions support what we know to be right or prop up a lame duck leadership in order to hold on to some individual positions in a structure which delivers too little too late for our members and the working class?

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