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.

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