Defending Trade Union Activists

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2014 National Delegate Conference
21 February 2014
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with concern the increasing number of trade union activists who are being victimised under this Tory-led government. We believe there will be an increasing number of victimised trade union reps, because we are at the forefront of defending the public sector from the cuts we all face.

We must learn the lessons of campaigns to defend trade union activists – both successful and unsuccessful. One successful example is the campaign to ‘Defend Jawad, Max and Steve’. Max Watson was Chair of London Met University UNISON Branch on 7th Feb 2013 when he was suspended alongside Jawad Botmeh (also a UNISON member) and Steve Jefferys (a UCU member).

Conference notes the campaign for ‘Freedom and Justice for Jawad and Samar’ against the miscarriage of justice they faced when imprisoned in 1996 on a charge of conspiracy to cause explosions, which received national UNISON support. We believe this support was fundamental to gaining support for the subsequently successful campaign to reinstate Jawad, Max and Steve in 2013.

After five weeks of campaigning, including; rallies outside investigation hearings attracting over 200 people; 2,500+ names on a petition; hundreds of emails and letters sent to the university management; letters of support from across the labour movement and around the world; all support publicised via a campaign website; organised through a Facebook group, email list and twitter account; 200+ people at a public meeting with speakers from across the labour movement; an immediate threat of (lawful) industrial action (within UNISON’s rules); and vitally, all with the full and support of UNISON’s National Executive Council and Presidential Team, Max Watson was reinstated and returned to work on 13th March 2013.

As a direct result of this vigorous campaigning with the full support of our union the direct threat of dismissal, which could have decapitated the branch, was reduced to a six months final written warning. UNISON’s solicitors, Thompsons, then challenged this sanction with a claim for trade union victimisation to an employment tribunal.

Conference – made up of delegates of active trade unionists who put our necks on the line for our members day in day out – resolves to do all in our power to protect our own; to stand up for each other when called on, and to protect the ‘backbone’ of our union.

It is inevitable that anyone fighting austerity will face attacks form their employers and this is increasingly the case. So trade union activists must know that the full force of their union will come to their aid if they are singled out for attention.

To this end, conference calls on the National Executive Council to monitor all known cases of UNISON activists who are facing persecution in their workplace and to ensure the maximum, vigorous support for their campaigns is forthcoming whenever requested. We cannot and we will not allow a single UNISON activist to be victimised under our watch.