Socialist Worker

Key health activist Yunus Bakhsh needs your support

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2036

Workers from across the country protested in support of Yunus Bakhsh on Tuesday (Pic: Ray Smith)

Workers from across the country protested in support of Yunus Bakhsh on Tuesday (Pic: Ray Smith)

The attempt to victimise one of Britain's best known union activists in the health service gathered pace this week.

Leading Unison union activist Yunus Bakhsh was summoned by his management to appear before an investigatory hearing as part of an ongoing campaign to discipline him.

Outside the hearing on Tuesday at St Nicholas's hospital in Newcastle, where Yunus worked as a psychiatric nurse, more than 50 trade unionists gathered for a noisy rally in his support.

Bosses at the Tyne and Wear NHS trust have spent much of the last week attempting to undermine the protest.

'We got a memo from our clinical leads (ward managers) telling staff that they would have to take a whole day's annual leave if they wanted to go to the protest,' said Rosie Taylor, who works as a nurse at the hospital.

'But the consensus on the ward is that what is happening to Yunus is totally unfair. People are really angry about it.'

James Rennie is a support worker at the hospital. He believes that management's attack on Yunus is an attempt to weaken the union.

James said, 'Yunus has saved my job in the past. In fact there are many people in this hospital who owe their jobs to him. Our bosses think that if they get rid of Yunus they will have broken the union's strongest link.'

Unfortunately the leadership of Unison has decided to join the attack on Yunus rather than defend him from his employer. Last month Unison removed Yunus from all his elected positions in the union, including being joint secretary of the North of Tyne health branch.

The branch, which had decided to ballot for strike action in defence of Yunus, has since been placed in the hands of a Unison full-time official and no ballot is taking place.

'The union's attack on Yunus is shameful,' says Bryan Robertson, who was the joint branch secretary with Yunus. 'But this is not just about one individual. This is an attack on a branch that is prepared to fight for its members.'

Union activists from around the north east of England joined the rally. Carol Charters is the branch secretary of Unison's prescriptions pricing authority branch.

Carol told Socialist Worker, 'Yunus has been in our corner in every fight we have been involved in over the years. His advice and support have been invaluable. Last year we were fighting privatisation and Yunus instigated a march and rally in our defence.

'That gave our members the confidence to fight. Now he needs us and this is payback time.'

Joseph and Rory are students. They came from Heaton Manor school to join the protest. Joseph said, 'We know Yunus because he is one of the best known activists in the north east. Everyone who is against the war or the Nazi BNP knows him.

'When we heard he was being attacked we thought we should give studying a break and come down to support him.'

Anger is growing inside the northern region of Unison about the way Yunus is being treated. Dallan McGleenan is a Unison steward from Cumbria health Unison. He told Socialist Worker, 'My branch like many others feels very strongly about defending Yunus.

'Last month we submitted a motion to our regional council about the shabby way he is being treated, but the officers refused to allow us to even discuss it.'

The same body did send out a circular about Yunus to Unison activists in the region. It told them that the lobby of the investigative hearing was 'unofficial' and that Unison activists were not allowed to attend in an official capacity.

Dave Walkden came to the rally with four other officers from Gateshead local government Unison branch officers. 'There is a principle at stake here,' he told Socialist Worker.

'The union must always defend its members when they are under attack by management because of their union activity. Any internal matter for the union should only be followed up after we have saved the member's job.'

Workers at Yunus's hospital are determined to keep up the fight to save his job and his role as a leading Unison activist. John Lawson is a porter at St Nicholas's hospital. John said, 'I cannot tell you how highly Yunus is thought of in this hospital as I do not have the words.

'Let me just say that he is not just one voice, he is the voice of thousands. They are thousands who would otherwise not be heard. That is why we are here today.'

Send support messages to [email protected]

For more details contact the Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign, c/o 46c Lawe Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear NE33 2EN. Phone 07958 171 205

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Article information

Sat 3 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2036
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