Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 July 2009

What we say

Unison witch-hunt verdict causes outrage amongst trade unionists

Demonstration outside Unison HQ against witchhunt of four unison members, photo Paul Mattsson

Demonstration outside Unison HQ against witchhunt of four unison members, photo Paul Mattsson

On 16 July, after two long years of tortuous investigations and hearings, Unison's kangaroo court declared four members of the Socialist Party guilty. This disgraceful charade will go down in trade union history as a day of shame.

The four Unison members, Brian Debus, Glenn Kelly, Onay Kasab and Suzanne Muna, were found 'guilty' on two charges of breaching union rules when they gave out a leafet at the 2007 Unison conference. The first charge asserts that their role in the production of the leaflet Whose Conference gave racist offence to members, showing disregard for the union's aims and objectives and was therefore in breach of rules. The second charge stated: "Your attack on the integrity of the members of the Standing Orders Committee was in breach of rules".

Despite the investigation accepting there was no racist intent in producing the leaflet, and despite leading anti-racist organisations and campaigners making it clear that the leaflet was not racist, the four have still been charged and found guilty of producing material that gave "racist offence" to one out of 3,000 delegates in attendance.

This is outrageous and an attempt to slur the reputations and future prospects of the four. It has provoked anger and outrage both within Unison and in the wider trade union movement.

The priority of the Unison leaders should be to defend the union's members against job losses, low pay, reduced hours and worse conditions which are being foisted on workers during the recession. However, they are instead narrowly focused on silencing any opposition to their leadership, especially from socialists with a track record of fighting for their members.

They are only interested in maintaining their hold on the union and propping up New Labour - opposition to which is growing in the union.

Originally, five Unison members were put under investigation at the 2007 Unison conference, for giving out the leaflet at the centre of the case. The leaflet asked branch delegates to return key motions to the conference agenda that the Standing Orders Committee had rejected. It drew delegates' attention to the fact that one third of the motions submitted had been rejected and this meant that many crucial issues could not be debated, including the election of union officials, New Labour's attacks on public services and organising industrial action.

Charges withdrawn from one

Charges were subsequently withdrawn from one of the original five, the only one who is not a member of the Socialist Party, clearly revealing that this is an attack on Socialist Party members. For two whole years the four have been through an investigation and a series of hearings.

The fact that Glenn Kelly was reelected with a bigger majority than before to Unison's National Executive Council (NEC) this year and that Socialist Party members increased their representation on the NEC from three members to six, demonstrates the support for socialist ideas - especially the Socialist Party's call to break the union's link with Labour. In fact, at this year's Unison conference, general secretary Dave Prentis, playing to the anti-Labour mood, himself used a version of Glenn's famous phrase: 'Why should we feed the hand that bites us'!

This was empty rhetoric from Prentis who, despite getting a standing ovation for suggesting holding back some money from New Labour, has no desire to pull away from that pro-big business party. However, Prentis subsequently warned the Unison Labour link conference that the Labour Party has to change to keep union support and drew attention to the number of Socialist Party members who have just been elected to the NEC.

Reflecting the views of Unison's members, the right-winger Annette Mansell-Green, who chaired the disciplinary panel hearing the cases of the four charged members, lost her NEC seat in this year's Unison elections.

Disgracefully, the witch-hunt panel refused to allow Suzanne Muna the opportunity to present her case as she could only attend the final hearings on the Friday and not the Thursday, due to work commitments.

Now, in yet another affront, the panel are making the four wait for up to 14 days to hear by letter what the penalties for being found guilty of these charges will be.

Witch-hunts are not new to the trade union movement. Unison has witch-hunted other left activists, and in the past, in desperate attempts to maintain their positions, union bureaucracies have expelled activists who challenge unpopular, ineffective leaderships.

This case is an attempt by Unison's present leaders to maintain their positions as they become more isolated from the mood of their membership. The need and struggle for an accountable, democratic, fighting union will intensify in a period where public sector workers fear for their jobs, conditions and pensions.

The fight to exonerate Brian, Glenn, Kas and Suzanne must now be stepped up. Already protest letters are flooding in that show Prentis and Co the support that exists for the four. This is not just about defending four good trade unionists and socialists but also is part of developing the fight to turn Unison into a fighting, democratic union which puts its members and not the bureaucrats first.

As one supporter said in an email to Dave Prentis: "I have just spent the weekend at Tolpuddle celebrating the actions of six selfless men who gave up everything to defend trade unionism. Unison supported the festival but those six men would be turning in their graves if they could see what crimes are being carried out in the name of our trade union today".

Send your protests now.

Please send your protests now to Unison HQ: Unison, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ . Telephone: 0845 355 0845.
e-mail: [email protected]
Also send to: Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858 London E11 1YG, [email protected]

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 21 July 2009:

Corus... Vestas... Defend every job!

No Job Cuts

Vestas: Support the occupation

Vestas jobs fightback

Action to save steel jobs at Corus

Unison witchhunt

Defend the Four: Protest at the Unison witch-hunt

Unison witch-hunt verdict causes outrage amongst trade unionists

Youth fight for jobs

Youth fight for jobs fortnight of action

Workplace news

National strike action to halt attacks on workers and our postal services

Tube workers' action wins concessions

South Yorkshire First Buses strike over pay

London Met Uni strike

Every little helps Tesco's as they attack workers

Teachers strike against job cuts

Care homes public meeting


Union action to fight the attacks on our pensions

Pensions - in brief

Pensions: We say


BNP get police to arrest socialists

Lincoln fights back against racist BNP

Stop the BNP's 'festival' of hate

Rock Against Racism

Socialist Party campaigns

Keep Deptford Jobcentre open!

Build the Tamil Solidarity campaign

Devon residents against incinerators: Alternative waste schemes needed

Another stepping stone towards health privatisation

Marxist analysis: history

20th anniversary of Soviet miners' strike


40th anniversary of the moon landing What steps has humanity taken?


Home   |   The Socialist 21 July 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleSocialist Party to the fore at Unison LG conference

triangleRight lose control in national executive council election

triangleUnison & PCS conferences Socialist Party fringe meeting

triangleCadent Gas plans 200 job losses

triangleUnison: Elect reps who will back strike action


triangleUnison general secretary candidate and Socialist Party member Hugo Pierre speaking during an anti-racism demo in 2017. Click here for the latest article in the Socialist on the general secretary contest.

triangleBirmingham Uni: Standing up to racism is not harassment!

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleLivingstone's smear of Militant


triangleBirmingham Clean Air Zone a tax on the poor

triangleEnfield byelection: We need councillors prepared to resist

triangleMajority of BFAWU members vote to break from Labour


triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: Northern Ireland - what lies ahead?

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: A report from NSSN conference

Socialist Party:

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: The life of Black Panther Fred Hampton

Glenn Kelly:

triangleSelling the Socialist

Suzanne Muna:

triangleUnite: elect fighting socialist reps

Onay Kasab:

triangleNews in brief

Brian Debus:

triangleHackney: We don't want homes and retail units working-class people can't afford

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Women's health matters



Tamil Solidarity asylum victory



Beth Roper inquest: Train company failures ignored



Make vaccine technology public, nationalise big-pharma



Neonatal leave introduced: Unions must fight for extensions and full pay



Fight for the funding our schools and colleges need



Left candidate needed for Unite general secretary election



If unions give a lead, workers are fully prepared to fight and win victories


Tory party

Tory splits and infighting growing


Climate change

G7 Can't solve poverty, Covid and climate change - join the struggle for Socialism



G7 tax deal won't challenge corporate power



Dea-John Reid murder: Jobs, homes and services, not racism



'Let's fight to win on NHS pay and funding'



Capitalism's Covid failings



Unite general secretary campaign: Statement from Howard Beckett

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021