Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How not to build unity

Given what I said in the last post about the availability of official Conference reports online I thought I might share some news which won't make it onto the Unison website.

Conference started half an hour late this morning because a delegate refused to remove a t-shirt which some other delegates found offensive.

The t shirt advertised a lunchtime fringe meeting and described expelled former Unison member, Yunus Bakhsh, as a working class hero.

Whatever one thinks about the wearing of slogan t-shirts (and if that is an offence then I am a serial offender) I struggle to see how the slogan could reasonably have caused offence.

The circumstances of Yunus' dismissal and expulsion have been widely publicised and it is clear that there are those within Unison who support what was done to Yunus. However there are many of us who believe that Yunus has been the victim of a grave injustice.

This issue is not going to go away.

The truth of that last observation was made clear by the attendance of more than 200 delegates at a lunchtime fringe meeting, where Yunus spoke alongside Caroline Bedale and Glenn Kelly (two more victims, in the opinions of many activists, of unjustified action).

Those who attended the fringe meeting marched back to the Conference Centre in a spirited - and entirely appropriate - display of support and solidarity, which caused no disruption to Conference.

Though none of the three are permitted within the Conference Centre, they were able to go for a coffee in an adjoining coffee bar, where delegates were able to chat to them - the t-shirt wearer (whose credentials had been removed) was able to join them there.

Our international guest speaker, Paul Moist from the Canadian public service union, CUPE mentioned dissent as one of the trade union values which he rightly lauded. Some of my NEC colleagues need to pay closer attention to the importance of cherishing - rather than stifling dissent.

Dissenting voices often speak truth - and an atmosphere of intolerance is hardly conducive to the courageous creativity which is needed to lead campaigns against cuts.

In the face of the coming onslaught upon jobs and services we need a unifying approach within Unison - not further politically contentious, internally divisive disciplinary action.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


Anonymous said...

I suspect the hysteria over the tee shirt is more to do with the impending out come of Yunus's Employment Tribunal and the fear that the verdict will highlight the role certain Northern Region bureucrats played in his dismissal as well as the direct involvement of a racist UNISON rep Kerry Cafferty.
It just shows though how crazy the witchunters are ,are such people fit to lead the union ?

Brian said...

Particularly amusing was the president's attempted explanation of this incident as a 'stewarding matter'.

Anonymous said...

Great post Jon. I was there, the t shirt was not racist or homophobic in any way.

Unison needs to unite behind its members, instead of pushing out the most active, hard working and effective activists.

What occured at conference was a real shame. It was my first conference and it opened my eyes to tactics being used to push the socialists out.