Monday 22 September 2008

Karen Reissmann - still supported

The last few weeks have been full of news for Karen Reissmann, the nurse and UNISON activist sacked by Manchester Community & Mental Health trust for speaking out against cuts and privatisation.

Just before her tribunal, she gets an offer to settle the case from the trust. The offer is only financial, with no admission of liability, no reinstatement, and no reference to end the blacklisting she is currently suffering as a result of her dismissal. Quite rightly, Karen rejected the offer - this case is not about compensation for Karen, but about defending union organisation and our NHS.

Disgracefully, a UNISON official then decided to withdraw support from her legal case - without even speaking to her. It never ceases to amaze me how some officials can keep their guns so carefully trained on their feet. It is a credit to Karen and the campaign around her that the effort to secure her reinstatement continues.

Part of the problem here is the anti-union laws and the way legislation is so biased against working people. We used to call them the Tory anti-union laws, but after 11 years it seems time to call them the Tory and New Labour anti-union laws. When employers can ignore tribunal rulings for reinstatement, the temptation for unions to just see cases in financial terms and lose sight of the real issues is magnified.

There seems no point waiting for repeal of the anti-union laws to come from the New Labour leadership, who seem more intent on propping up big business. We need to build up a real groundswell of campaigning, as well as ensuring that the traditions of solidarity are rebuilt. The United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Union Laws has launched a postcard campaign - please give it your support.

Meanwhile I hear that Karen has been resoundingly elected to the UNISON National Executice Committee. It's great to see a fighter like her in such an important forum.

A weekend of demonstrations

The Labour Party conference is in town, and for those of us who live in Manchester it means traffic and parking problems - and lots of demonstrations.

On Saturday I joined the Stop the War Coalition demonstration to the Labour Party conference. I thought this was an important - not only do we have the US trying to impose its power on various weaker countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but now with the conflict in Georgia the eastward expansion of NATO is leading to increasing conflict between major powers. A worrying world indeed.

This artistic collaboration between demonstrators and police summed up how many felt:

On Sunday I joined the UNITE demonstration over public sector pay. I think this issue is important for all trade unionists - not just those in the public sector, as it is the sharp end of the argument that working people should pay for the current economic crisis - even though it has clearly been caused by the greed of the bankers.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Job worries at EDS

There are reports that both UNITE and PCS have spoken out about potential job losses at EDS, following the takeover by HP.

The current economic turmoil is making all of us worry about job security. Governments seem ready and willing to intervene on a massive scale to protect big business and the financial system from the consequences of their own greed, but still unwilling to intervene to protect working people from the consequences.

Friday 12 September 2008

Fujitsu NHS redundancies

Apologies for not posting for a while, I've been extremely busy dealing with a potential redundancy situation at Fujitsu, where I work.

On 20th June the company put 672 staff at risk, following the termination of its contract to supply IT services to the NHS (after the company withdrew from talks to renegotiate the contract).

The numbers at risk have fallen significantly thanks to redeployment and some ongoing work. However, there are still a couple of hundred people at risk, the first of whom are due to be made redundant on 18th September.

The locations most affected don't have union recognition yet, which has made things much harder. Nonetheless there is no doubt that UNITE has achieved a great deal. As a recent UNITE newsletter within the company asked, could compulsory redundancies have been avoided altogether of the locations most affected had been well unionised?

This week I attended a meeting with the Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw, in a last ditch attempt to save more of the jobs. You can read the UNITE press release here.