The attempt by Unison union leaders to discipline leading activist Yunus Bakhsh is causing them to perform some dangerous somersaults.
For many years Unison has held that the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 – which, among other things, aims to tackle institutional racism – should be further extended so that it covers all organisations, not just the stated public authorities.
Unison’s position was developed so that workers employed by private firms contracted to deliver services in the public sector could gain from the protection that the act offers.
Unison agreed that the act should also apply to trade unions, and voluntarily agreed to adhere to it.
One of the strengths of the legislation is that it clearly states that allegations of racial discrimination in disciplinary hearings must be shown to have been thoroughly and effectively investigated.
Yet in Yunus’s case it appears that Unison has completely abandoned its previous commitment.
Yunus is suspended from his job as a nurse, and from his union, following an anonymous allegation that he believes may have had a racial motivation.
He asked his union to investigate this possibility.
Nevertheless John Freeman, Unison’s national strategy manager, last week wrote to Yunus refusing his request.
The reason for his denial? He said that Unison has no duty to investigate racism in disciplinary matters, as the Race Relations Act does not apply to trade unions.
Employers, however, have no such get out clause. Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust – Yunus’s employers for the past 18 years – have called him to a stage three disciplinary hearing on Wednesday 25 July.
Their action rests on the same anonymous allegation as the union’s, and there is little evidence so far that they have fully and satisfactorily investigated a racial motivation for the complaint.
Yunus’s supporters are calling for a lobby of his management disciplinary hearing which will be held in Newcastle on 25 July. There will be full details of the lobby in next week’s Socialist Worker.