27 August 2014:
The Defend the Four Story
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In 2007, four trade unionists from different UNISON branches were publicly and unjustly accused of racism. Yet all were committed anti-racists and led well-run union branches.
Why would a trade union turn against its own activists? All four are well-known members of the Socialist Party. But this provides only part of the explanation; the bureaucracy was also driven by a desire to make the union safe for its full-time machine, and safe for the Labour Party.
This book tells the story of the ultimately victorious campaign and legal challenge that cleared them of all charges, and which exposed the true nature of UNISON’s bureaucracy.
According to a UNISON blogger, in April 2014, the UNISON National Executive Committee: “received a confidential report reviewing the conduct of four internal disciplinary cases arising from events at the National Delegate Conference 2007. The report had been made by the two Vice-Presidents to the President (Maureen Le Marinel who sat on the Disciplinary Panel that handed out bans of 5,4,and 3 years to the Four) who asked that NEC members did not reveal its contents outside the NEC."
Read this book, and find out why the Unison leadership is frightened of being exposed.
The UNISON Four
4 September 2013:
Six years after this saga started on 9 August an Employment Tribunal remedy hearing gave a damning verdict both financially and in words over Unisons leadership’s witch-hunt of 4 of its activists.
Glenn Kelly Bromley, Suzanne Muna Tenant Services, Onay Kasab Greenwich, and Brian Debus Hackney known as the Unison Four and all members of the Socialist party, were falsely accused of racism for producing a leaflet featuring a cartoon of the ‘three wise monkeys.
The award of compensation totalling £49,000 was for being “unjustifiable disciplined” by Unisons bureaucracy. Given that the average pay-out for a worker from a tribunal is about £4,000, the tribunal's decision to award £49,000 in total to the four shows how serious the union's actions were viewed.
The award was made reflecting the stress hurt and injury to feelings they all suffered. Additionally in reference to Glenn Kelly the Tribunal stated
"That we are satisfied that the conduct of the respondent (Unison) amounted to high-handed, malicious and oppressive conduct and we decided in the case of Mr Kelly to award an additional award for aggravated damages."
Agreeing the damages the court found all four activists to be "committed and dedicated trade unionists, elected by the members and who had devoted either the whole or a large part of their working life to advising and representing their members and their interests at regional and national level".
Despite this, in an attempt to diminish its actions, the union bureaucracy had tried to argue in the remedy hearing that the damage done to us was minimal as we were 'Marxists and Socialist Party members and were used to the rough and tumble of political life'.
The court responded by saying: "We do not accept that the claimants' political beliefs and or activities made them in some way impervious or immune to hurt caused by the action of the respondents".
Alongside the ban, we also had to face our branches being taken into regional administration. All along the union tried to say the two events weren't related.
However, the court rejected this saying: "It is inconceivable that there was no link between the claimants being banned and the branches being taken into regional administration."
In reference to the raids by union officials on the offices of the affected branches the tribunal said: "It was done in a way to cause the maximum humiliation to the claimants".
Over 6 years ago four London branches Bromley, Greenwich and Hackney and Housing Corporations branch (it later became the Tenant Services Branch) sent motions to conference calling for regular elections of Senior paid officials of Unison and speeding up the process of balloting for strike action.
They were charged with unintentional racism and challenging the integrity of the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) for the use of the cartoon of 3 wise monkeys to indicate injustice on a leaflet to depict the SOC who had barred the motions.
On March 3rd 2010 for this crime the four branch officers Glenn Kelly, Onay Kasab, Brian Debus, and Suzanne Muna were barred from holding any office in UNISON for between 2 and 3 years. On the same day they closed down three of the four branches placing them in Regional administration so removing any democratic control from the members.
3 WISE MONKEYS INNOCENT
An Employment Tribunal (ET) and an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) have found Unison guilty of taking unjustifiable disciplinary action against the four
Further in the January 2011 (ET) Judgement it forcefully rejected the allegation of racism. “All four claimants are committed anti-racists and have fought against racism. They quite reasonably assumed that anyone who saw the leaflet would understand the cartoon to be saying that the SOC was out of touch in closing its minds to and ignoring issues that concern the membership.”
Unbelievably, Unison filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal against the ET and the (EAT) decisions. Then on 17 July 2012, Unison demanded the right to claim costs if they won the appeal. But the Unison leadership’s demands were thrown out of court with Lord Justice Elias calling Unison “shabby”. "The judge ordered that UNISON could not claim costs, even if they win in court in December".
Only on 20 November 2012 did the union leadership do a complete U-turn. They have written to the court to withdraw their appeal. In doing so the union has now accepted the previous courts’ decision that they acted illegally. So for nearly 2 years an illegal ban and the continued closure of the Bromley and Greenwich branches carried on.
The four have now set legal history in defending the right of union members to defend themselves from being attacked by union bureaucracies seeking to silence dissent.
Over £500K Down the Drain
Although the ban on Onay Kasab and Glenn Kelly ended in March 2012 the Greenwich branch had to wait another 6 months for elections and in Bromley their AGM only took place in March this year with Glenn Kelly elected as branch Secretary. So for 2.5 years and 3 years these branches were still run by unelected regional officials of Unison with no lay member control. Consequently1, 000 members left Unison and joined Unite representing £150,000 year in lost subscriptions since 2011.
Unison must have spent over £200,000 in legal fees, plush hotels and untold hours of officers’ time on this case.
DEMOCRACY V UNELECTED BUREAUCRACY
The two ET judgements and the costs hearing taken as a whole are a devastating indictment of the role of unelected and unaccountable paid officials in UNISON, usurping democracy to retain their positions of power and influence.
One unelected national officer is reported to have said “we will take this case to Strasbourg if necessary”.
This just proves how out of touch and arrogant these officials are
24 HOUR General Strike Now
Pity the same commitment and energy was not devoted to a fighting strategy to defend our pensions with further strike action, prevent four years of nil wages rises by this government and stopping the hundreds of thousands of job losses. We need a UNISON leadership to fight all the cuts to our members' jobs living standards and pensions, and defend all the services they rely on for a decent life.
What we need is a fighting Unison Leadership to carry out the policy of the TUC Congress to coordinate with other Unions for a 24 hour General Strike to drive this weak Government out of office.
Given these findings, the question still remains: Who will be held to account inside Unison for spending six years attacking dedicated union activists and wasting literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of our members' money?
We need to campaign for the election of officials and democratic control over all UNISON structures.
Within the next 4 weeks there should be a pamphlet available which will detail the events touched on above and the lessons to be learned and applied to prevent this happening in the future. Please be prepared to place your order now
Defend the Four campaign Po Box 858 London E11 1YG.
Video link to the Defend the 4 film. Historic victory for witch-hunted four
1 May 2013:
Employment tribunal remedy hearing
On 3 May, after nearly six years of a tortuous fight with the Unison bureaucracy, an employment tribunal remedy hearing is to be held. This is to finally resolve the outstanding issue of the illegal action that was taken against four Unison members, Glenn Kelly, Suzanne Muna, Onay Kasab and Brian Debus.
These four Socialist Party members have been subjected to a sustained witch-hunt after leafleting Unison conference in 2007. They were falsely accused of racism and banned from holding office in the union for between two and three years each.
The employment tribunal ruled that Unison acted illegally. The union appealed against the original decision and lost. They were going to the High Court but pulled out. The next stage for the Four is to seek financial compensation.
Historic victory for witch-hunted four
The white flag of surrender is currently flying over Unison HQ. Over five and half years the union leadership have pursued a vicious witch-hunt against four Unison activists and Socialist Party members, falsely accusing them of racism for producing a leaflet featuring a cartoon of the ‘three wise monkeys’. The union leadership has spent over £100,000 and have been prepared to lose thousands of defecting members and many good activists.
In January 2011 an Employment Tribunal (ET) Judgement (under Employment judge Ms H Grewal) forcefully rejected the allegation of racism. “All four claimants are committed anti-racists and have fought against racism. They quite reasonably assumed that anyone who saw the leaflet would understand the cartoon to be saying that the SOC was out of touch in closing its minds to and ignoring issues that concern the membership.”
Unbelievably, Unison filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal against the ET and an Employment Appeal Tribunals’ decisions. Then on 17 July this year, Unison demanded the right to claim costs if they won the appeal. But the Unison leadership’s demands were thrown out of court with Lord Justice Elias calling Unison “shabby”. Only on 20 November did the union leadership do a complete u-turn. They have written to the court to withdraw their appeal. In doing so the union has now accepted the previous courts’ decision that they acted illegally. A hearing will now be called to determine the compensation that the union will have to pay to the four.
The four have now set legal history in defending the right of union members to defend themselves from being attacked by union bureaucracies seeking to silence them.
This is a victory for the Socialist Party and the Four, who have refused to be bullied and intimidated. They have run a determined five-year campaign exposing the actions of the union.
The Socialist Party would also like to put on record its thanks to the lawyers who gave their support and time for free, showing that not all lawyers are just in it for the money, in particular, Nick De Marco.
The four will be holding a press conference and photo opportunity outside UNISON HQ, Euston Road, London on Monday 26 November at 9 am.
Witch-hunting Unison leadership "shabby" declares judge
In a humiliating response to Unison's attempts to bully four witch-hunted Socialist Party members out of defending ourselves in court due to lack of money, Lord Justice Elias has called Unison "shabby".
The judge went on to say: "Imagine if it was an employer trying to do it to a union, one would be shocked". In another attack he said: "What do you want, do you want no opposition at the appeal, is that it? Or is this just a grudge match?"
Unison is wasting members' money by appealing against two previous decisions by the courts that found that the union leadership's action against the four was "unjustifiable".
On 17 July Unison demanded the right to claim costs if they win the appeal. The four's costs are £100,000. But the Unison leadership's demands were thrown out of court.
It is disgraceful that, through this demand for costs, Unison risked reinforcing case law by defending the bosses' right to claim costs against workers. It is bad enough that the union is acting in a malicious way against us. But to damage the rights of all British workers is unforgivable.
99.9% of employment tribunal cases will obviously be a worker versus an employer. In most cases workers cannot have costs awarded against them in an Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal.
But if a worker wants to appeal or defend an appeal to the court of appeal against an employer, they can face costs of £100,000 or more if they lose. In most cases this allows a bullying employer to force workers to back down.
It is clear that the Tories are looking to ratchet up the anti-worker laws to aid the employers in carrying out cuts and protect their profits. They have already given the right to the bosses to unfairly sack a worker who has less than two years' service without being taken to a tribunal. They are about to charge workers £1,200 if they want to lodge a claim at a tribunal - which they will not necessarily get back even if they win.
Through this attempt to extract costs, the Unison leadership was seeking to further weaken a worker's right to take on the employers in the courts.
We could not have afforded to defend our case if we had not won this costs protection order, so we would have had to withdraw. Unlike in the lower courts, the case would have gone ahead in our absence.
If in those circumstances Unison had won, it could not have claimed its costs against us anyway. So Unison had nothing to lose by stating it wouldn't claim costs against us - unless of course its intention was to bully us out of being represented.
'Defend the UNISON Four - Democracy Not Bureacracy'
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DEFEND THE FOUR: DROP THE BAN
UNISON’s leadership have been found guilty of “Unjustifi able” disciplinary action against four Socialist Party activists for producing a leafl et protesting about the exclusion of resolutions from the 2007 UNISON Conference.
An Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) on 22nd February 2012 upheld the unanimous judgement of an earlier employment tribunal (27th January 2011).
The ET judgement last year rejected false allegations of racism against the four and found that the real reason for disciplinary action was that they had issued a leafl et criticising the Standing Orders Committee and the union leadership of preventing discussion on issues of union democracy.
The EAT rejected all five grounds on which the UNISON leadership appealed against last year’s ET judgement. The four activists who were disciplined by UNISON were banned from holding any union offi ce for up to three years.
The four are Glenn Kelly (formerly Bromley Branch Secretary and Executive member), Onay Kasab (formerly Greenwich Branch Secretary), Suzanne Muna (formerly Housing Corporation Branch Secretary) and Brian Debus (formerly Hackney Branch Chair).
The day after the ban was imposed, three of these four branches were taken into regional administration. Two years later, this is still the case.
The judgement of the ET and the EAT completely vindicates the four’s struggle to defend union democracy. The unjustifi ed sanctions against the four are part of a wider witch hunt being carried out by the UNISON leadership against activists fighting for union democracy and effective action to defend public services, jobs, pay and conditions.
There is now a rising tide of discontent within the union at the ineffective policies of the leadership when faced with a tsunami of attacks on the public sector.
The UNISON leadership unscrupulously tried to bolster their disciplinary charges with allegations of racism. This related to a cartoon on the leafl et protesting about the Standing Orders Committee’s suppression of over 50 resolutions that used the well known image of three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
The ET judgement forcefully rejected the allegation of racism: “All four claimants are committed anti-racists who have fought against racism. They quite reasonably assumed that anyone who saw the leafl et would understand the cartoon to be saying that the SOC was out of touch in closing its minds to, and ignoring issues that concern the membership.
Looking at the context in which the cartoon was used (ie. to depict the attitude of the SOC towards controversial motions) it cannot be said that any reasonable person would or should have realised that it would cause racial offence, and that not doing so was somehow ‘careless’.
That is reinforced by the fact that [it] never occurred to many people who saw the cartoon before the publication. These individuals included an equalities and diversity offi cer and black members.” The tribunal found that the main reason for disciplinary action against the four was that they produced a leafl et criticising the SOC for rejecting a large number of branch resolutions.
The two judgements taken as a whole area devastating indictment of the role of unelected and unaccountable paid offi cials in UNISON, usurping democracy to retain their positions of power and influence. These national offi cers are estimated to have now wasted 100,000 on the disciplinary hearings in plush hotels and legal costs in tribunals, and a Queens Counsel.
One unelected national offi cer is reported to have said “We will take this case to Strasbourg if necessary”. Pity the same commitment and energy is not devoted to a fi ghting strategy to defend our pensions with further strike action, prevent three years’ of nil wage rises by this government and the hundreds of thousands of job losses. These unelected, unaccountable national offi cers have now sought leave to appeal the EAT decision to a higher court and potentially waste another £100,000.
To fight this case in the courts could cost the four up to £10,000 so please do some of the following:
1. Pass motions of support through your union branch to drop the bans and lift the regional supervision from the branches;
2. Send letters of protest to the National Executive Committee of UNISON and to the General Secretary Dave Prentis at UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Road, London NW1 2AY, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies should be sent to info@stopthewitchhunt. org.uk;
3. Organise a collection in your workplace / union branch towards the legal costs of the four. Please make cheques payable to: Stop The Witch-Hunt and send to Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG;
4. Campaign for the election of officials and democratic control over all UNISON structures.
Unison leadership found guilty of “unjustifiable discipline” against four Socialist Party activists
Victory for the Unison 4
Once again, the Unison leadership has been found guilty of “unjustifiable” disciplinary action against four activists for producing a leaflet protesting about the exclusion of resolutions from the 2007 Unison conference.
The four activists who were disciplined by Unison were banned from holding any union office for up to three years. The four are Glenn Kelly (formerly Bromley branch secretary and NEC member), Onay Kasab (formerly Greenwich branch secretary), Brian Debus (formerly Hackney branch chairperson), and Suzanne Muna (formerly Housing Corporation branch secretary).
The Unison leadership unscrupulously tried to bolster their disciplinary charges with allegations of racism. This related to a cartoon on the leaflet protesting about the Standing Orders Committee’s suppression of over 50 resolutions that used the well-known image of three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
Unison’s own lawyers had used a cartoon of the three wise monkeys
Incredibly, during the case, it was discovered that Unison’s own lawyers had used a cartoon of the three wise monkeys.
Defend the Four Tribunal Victory
On the 27th January the bureaucracy of UNISON was rocked when an employment tribunal stated “the unanimous judgement of the tribunal is that all the claimants were unjustifiably disciplined, contrary to Section 64 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992”. For nearly four years now the four claimants, lay activists Glenn Kelly (Bromley), Onay Kasab (Greenwich), Suzanne Muna (Tenant Services Authority), and Brian Debus (Hackney) have been fighting to clear their names and their branches of allegations of racism. At the end of a contorted disciplinary process they were banned from office for between 2 and 3 years each. Their alleged crime, producing and distributing a leaflet for the 2007 National Conference containing the image of three wise monkeys to indicate injustice and calling for the reinstatement of motions ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC).
Three Wise Monkeys Exonerated
It is worth quoting from the judgement on the issue of racism: “Looking at the context in which the cartoon was used (ie to depict the attitude of the SOC towards the controversial motions) it cannot be said that any reasonable person would or should have realised that it would cause racial offence and that not doing so was somehow careless”. The judgement taken as a whole is a devastating indictment of the role of unelected, paid officials in UNISON, usurping democracy to retain their positions of power and influence. The bureaucracy was able to hide behind ‘sub judice’, no scrutiny by members of the decisions has been allowed.
Officials in the union without recourse to the democratic structures of the union have now lodged an appeal against this judgement. After already spending over £50k on this case, they are now intent on wasting tens of thousands of pounds of members’ money seeking to overturn this decision in the courts. One unelected national officer is reported to have said “we will take this case to Strasbourg if necessary”. Pity the same commitment and energy is not devoted to a fighting strategy to prevent three years of nil wage rises by this government and the hundreds of thousands of job losses, and defending public sector pension schemes of UNISON members. It is because the bureaucracy is frightened by its members demanding more democratic control over the policies and structures of the union that they are continuing to attack the four. The tribunal victory and the welcome reception this has received from thousands of our members confirms the justice of our case.
Things To Do:
To continue to fight this case in the courts would cost the four up to £10,000. We need you to do some of the following:
• Pass motions of support through your union branch and send letters of protest to the National Executive Committee of UNISON and to the General Secretary Dave Prentis at UNISON HQ, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ or email email@example.com.
• Organise a collection in your workplace. Please make cheques payable to ‘Stop the Witch-Hunt’ and send to Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG.
• Campaign for the election of officials and democratic control over all UNISON structures. To keep up to date with the campaign email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website www.stopthewitchhunt.org.uk
Four unison activists, all members of the Socialist Party, have been banned from Office for between three to five years: from left to right,