News of the witch-hunt of leading Unison union and health service activist Yunus Bakhsh reached delegates at the union’s health conference this week, causing disbelief and outrage.
A highly charged fringe meeting saw over 150 delegates – from the 500-strong conference – packed into a room to hear Yunus condemn the unconvincing case against him. He outlined the next stages in his defence campaign.
Yunus said, “For daring to expose the hypocrisy of my management – who award themselves big pay rises, while cutting services – I have been suspended by my employers and face summary dismissal.
“They set out to find people to make allegations against me in order to destroy the union at my hospital.
“Our union lives or dies by its ability to defend its activists when they are under attack.
“And while our national union is shamed by its lack of action, the numbers of leading activists here shows the strength of feeling.
“Unison suspended me from office in January of this year, saying that some complaints have been received against me.
“But three months later there are still no charges and I’m still suspended.”
Yunus told Socialist Worker that Unison leaders were attacking him because they fear that the growing anger with the Labour government will bolster the left.
Speakers from branches across Britain declared their support for Yunus. They expressed their dismay that their union leaders have prevented the matter from being raised at any official forum in the union.
Mark Ladbrooke, a member of the Unison health executive from Oxfordshire, reminded the meeting that Yunus was asked by the executive to deliver the final speech at last year’s health conference.
Mark said, “Yunus gave a rallying cry to us all and told us to prepare for battle. For that he got a standing ovation from the whole conference.
“Now he is being victimised for doing exactly what he urged the rest of us to do.
“We are loyal to our union, but it is making a huge mistake here and we have to speak out,” he said.
Sandra Crowley, from the national blood service in Newcastle, told the meeting about how she is facing redundancy and four other shop stewards are being disciplined.
She said, “This could happen to any of us. We’ve got to fight back and we need leadership.
'Yunus has always been our inspiration. We’ve got to send a message to our leaders. “The union is ours, and Yunus is ours – we won’t let you touch him.”
Kay McCarrick, Unison branch secretary for the prescriptions and pricing authority in the north west of England, explained how Unison’s leadership stops branches from fighting.
Kay said,“I’m not political, I’m not in any faction in the union.
“But my experience of being blocked by the leadership when trying to organise action in my branch tells me why they want to get rid of Yunus.”
The meeting voted unanimously to back a protest outside the next management
disciplinary hearing on Wednesday 2 May and collected over £1,200 from the mainly low paid workers.
Yunus told Socialist Worker how important the meeting was. He said, “Unison leaders have tried to prevent my case from being discussed anywhere. This meeting has blown that apart.
“I didn’t know very many people in the meeting because the audience was from way beyond the traditional left.
“The spirit of people in that room has given me great strength.
“I’m not the one who is isolated in the union – those who want to destroy me are.
“This week I’ve been invited to speak at the PCS civil service workers’ union north east rally.
“The PCS regional committee that invited me was told that if I am on the platform, the Unison regional convenor, Claire Williams would refuse her invitation.
“They decided that I should speak, regardless.”
All union members quoted in this article are speaking in a personal capacity.
Wednesday 2 May, 12.30pm till 2pm St Nicholas Hospital, Jubilee Road, Gosforth, Newcastle
For more details and to send messages to be read out at the protest, contact the Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign c/o 46c Lawe Road, South Shields, Tyne & Wear NE33 2EN. Phone 07958 171 205.