Outrage spread across the NHS this week at news of the sacking of leading health trade unionist Karen Reissmann, a nurse with 25 years experience of working in mental health in Manchester.
Karen has been sacked not because her skills are lacking – she received a letter promoting her on the day she was suspended from work 20 weeks ago – but for gross misconduct because she dared to speak out against cuts, privatisation and 'reorganisations'.
Workers at the Manchester mental health trust, where Karen works, reacted with fury to the announcement. 'We have already taken 14 days of strike action to defend our friend and union branch chair,' says a community psychiatric nurse at the trust.
'And from Thursday of this week myself and all 150 community based staff are going to be on indefinite strike action. That we are willing to take that level of action is a reflection of how strongly we all feel about defending our union and the NHS.
'Our morale is high and we are extremely determined. I don't think our trust management know quite what they are in for now.'
The all out industrial action will mean that strikers could lose thousands of pounds in the run up to Christmas. Already the union's strike fund has received almost £100,000 in donations.
Thousands of pounds more are now urgently required and it is vital that every trade unionist raises the issue in their branch, and collects regularly from their workmates.
Last week the branch committee of Pennine acute health Unison voted unanimously to send Manchester £2,000 a month for the duration of the strike saying, 'Long live democracy and the right to free speech.' Donations of that order are required across the country.
Last Saturday's demonstration in London in defence of the NHS saw scores of trade union delegations meeting with Karen to get the latest news on her disciplinary. They pledged large donations and arranged support meetings in their areas.
Mike Molloy, branch secretary of Unison at UCL hospital in London, said his branch had already made a substantial contribution but that he would be recommending a further donation of several thousands of pounds at his branch meeting later this week.
Oxfordshire health Unison, which has already donated to the strike fund, collected a further £150 on the coaches to the demonstration.
Karen has also received backing from her national union. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis last week wrote to Manchester mental health trust to protest at their actions, saying that Karen has the support of the entire national union in her battle.
'The attack on Karen is an attack on trade unionism – pure and simple,' Pete Hinchliffe, branch secretary of Unison's Pennine acute health branch, told Socialist Worker. 'Every trade unionist now needs to get behind Karen.'
Rush donations and requests for speakers to Manchester Community and Mental Health branch Unison, c/o union office, Chorlton House, 70 Manchester Rd, Manchester M21 9UN, phone 07972 120 451 or email [email protected]
There will be daily picket lines at a variety of sites from 8am to 11am on Thursday 8 November. Karen's Unison union branch is organising a solidarity rally in Manchester on Wednesday 14 November and a demonstration on Saturday 24 November.