Socialist Worker

Manchester health strikers defend nurse Karen Reissmann

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2071

Health workers in Manchester fighting to defend the NHS and union activist Karen Reissmann (Pic: Colin Barker)

Health workers in Manchester fighting to defend the NHS and union activist Karen Reissmann (Pic: Colin Barker)

Management at Manchester mental health trust this week moved closer to disciplining, and possibly even sacking, leading health trade unionist Karen Reissmann.

Karen, who has worked as a psychiatric nurse in Manchester for 25 years, was suspended from work more than three months ago after she spoke out against cuts and privatisation.

Following talks with Karen's Unison union on Monday of this week, management announced that it intends to hold a disciplinary hearing in two week's time.

The move comes after more than 700 health workers last week continued a rolling programme of strike action in defence of Karen.

Management responded by moving patients hundreds of miles away to private hospitals.

The resulting chaos in mental health services across Manchester has led to even greater support for Karen, both inside and outside the mental health trust.

Manchester central Labour Party last week invited Karen to explain the union's case to them.

Karen said, 'There were a lot of local councillors at the meeting – some of them are in senior positions on the city council, others will have had connections to my trust – but the meeting was overwhelmingly with the union.

'One Labour Party member was particularly outraged. She shouted, 'We can't allow NHS trusts to discipline trade unionists for speaking out. Not under a Labour government!'


'Most others agreed with her, even some of those who disagreed with me over some of the issues I had spoken out over – including the use of the voluntary sector in the NHS.'

The meeting passed a motion to back Karen, complain about her treatment to her employers, and send details of the case to Labour supporters in the area.

The growing political pressure to reinstate Karen led last week to the trust inviting striking workers into a directors' meeting, where chief executive Sheila Foley told them that the matter would soon be resolved, and that she had requested talks with the union.

Many strikers interpreted that as a sign that management were preparing to back off, and that a deal seeing Karen's return to work was possible.

Nevertheless, at the union meeting that followed, strikers agreed to a further two-day strike if Karen remained suspended.

It is now likely that this strike will take place on the opening day of Karen's disciplinary hearing.

The Manchester strike action has grown more solid in recent weeks, with more workers joining it after the shock of seeing their patients being moved across Britain.

Karen said, 'We are planning to organise a lobby of my hearing, and it would be great if branches from across the country sent delegations to join us.

'It is also essential that our supporters continue to flood us with donations. On Wednesday I signed cheques to 185 people for strike pay, and there are many more that we need to issue soon.'

The branch last week received many donations, including from Glasgow and Clyde Unison, the Cardiff and the Vale health branch, and from the Alfreton NHS logistics branch.

Karen said, 'There is a mood of determination in the branch, despite the fact that many people had their hopes of a resolution raised by management.

'The more that strikers see support coming from around the country, the more determined they will become.'

Rush donations and messages of support to the Manchester community and mental health Unison branch, 70 Manchester Road, Manchester, M21 9UN.

You can also email messages of support to [email protected] Download the union branch's petition to reinstate Karen from the campaign website »

The Unison union is planning a major national demonstration to celebrate and defend the NHS in central London on Saturday 3 November. For more information go to »

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Article information

Tue 2 Oct 2007, 19:28 BST
Issue No. 2071
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