Yunus Bakhsh, a leading activist in the Unison union, has been suspended from his job as a health worker in Newcastle since September.
The suspension is an attack on one of the best organised health branches in the country.
Yunus, who is the joint branch secretary of Unison North of Tyne health branch, sits on the union’s health service group executive and is a former member of the union’s national executive.
Yunus’s colleagues see the suspension as an attack on the union – Yunus has been a thorn in the side of management.
The decision to suspend Yunus was based on an anonymous letter – backed up by anonymised statements.
But beyond the surreal nature of the suspension process lies a deliberate attempt to prevent the union branch fighting back.
The branch has strongly resisted £24 million of cuts by the local health trust.
These cuts could mean major scaling back of staff numbers and services.
While the trust has a deficit, the cuts are being pushed by directors who received pay rises of up to 36.7 percent.
Nor did the deficit prevent managers, including those “investigating” Yunus, from awarding themselves massive pay rises last year.
The branch’s resistance is what lies behind the victimisation.
The attack has provoked anger among Yunus’s colleagues, who requested a strike ballot to fight what is seen as a straightforward victimisation.
There is now serious concern over the long delay in agreeing such a ballot.
While Unison has challenged the legal basis of the disciplinary action, officials as yet have delayed calling the ballot.
Rank and file
More disturbingly, Unison has placed the branch into regional administration (suspension), which makes it harder for the rank and file to force the ballot.
Further, the terms of Yunus’ suspension mean he will face immediate dismissal if he enters trust property. But Unison has insisted on organising a union meeting on the trust property, essentially, and some feel deliberately, banning Yunus from the meeting.
Activists across Unison and the broader union movement need to rapidly increase the solidarity and support for Yunus.
They need to step up the pressure to get the Unison leadership to act in defence of one of their best activists.
Health Worker, a rank and file organisation in the health service, has produced a leaflet and petition in defence of Yunus.
To obtain copies write to Health Worker, c/o 123 Coppice Street, Oldham, OL8 4BH.
Send messages of support to email@example.com
Protest to chief executive Alan Hall, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Alan Hall, Chief Executive, Northumberland Tyne and Wear trust, St Nicholas Hospital, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 3XT.