Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Paul Holmes statement on misuse of UNISON Disciplinary procedures

Recently four more activists have been suspended for varying periods (Glenn Kelly, Suzanne Muna, Onay Kasab and Brian Debus).

What a tragedy.
Yet more activists who've given years of their lives to represent members. There is now a list of activists who have been suspended beyond their retirement date!
It's got to stop.

Of course we need disciplinary processes. We need to take action against those members guilty of fraud (even though those members guilty of fraud usually resign from UNISON before their disciplinary date - their reason for being in the union, making money, having disappeared).

There are also fascists and racists who should be disciplined, but political differences should be decided in open debate. The current atmosphere is stifling the union.

Some activists have told me, as I go round, that they are more frightened of the union than of their own Employer!
This cannot be allowed to continue. There is a place for everyone in the union who puts the interests of the union first.

There is a long tradition of the union being affiliated to the Labour Party, but there is also a long tradition of people being in other political parties. Not being in the Labour Party is not a crime. Putting forward views at odds with the leadership of the union is not a crime.

Once you create an atmosphere of deciding political debate not by open discussion, but by disciplinary action, it is a 'slippery slope'.

History shows that without the facility for open debate, labour movement organisations cannot survive.

We need new activists and new energy. That will come from tolerance, debate, inspiration, leadership and organisation. Not from fear and caution. Our natural wish for unity cannot be translated into stopping debate.

All debates should be in the open. Whilst few (other than those present) know the details of a disciplinary case, many know who are being charged, what they are being charged with and what views they support.

As a candidate in the General Secretary election (and a union steward for 36 years), I stand "four-square" behind the disciplining of thieves and fascists. I also stand "four-square" behind the "right to dissent". Throughout history, it is dissenters who have taken society forward.

Don't forget the history of those who are being disciplined. They are often people who have shown commitment, care and conviction. These people care about the union.
These people have families - they suffer too. For many people the union is not a game or an interest or a job - it is a lifetime conviction.
I give this pledge. If elected General Secretary I will fully support the review of all disciplinary cases using the democratic bodies of the union, to look at each and every disciplinary case.
Meetings and conferences are for debate - disciplinary hearings are to deal with bullying, racism, fascism and fraud.

Many of our Employers must be laughing at an organisation that attacks some of their most difficult and effective opponents - let's unite within the union, but not use that desire for unity to attack people who don't agree with us.

Don't fear talent - utilise it.

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