Unison union activist Yunus Bakhsh, who is involved in a bitter battle against his employers, took part in a hearing against his union last week.
Yunus has recently been ill, and continues to be in poor health, but he went ahead with the one-day hearing rather than endure further postponement of a matter he feels very strongly about.
The hearing took place before the Certification Officer. This is the official tasked with determining complaints concerning trade union elections and breaches of trade union rules.
Last week Yunus presented five complaints that the union breached its rules in relation to disciplinary proceedings, and breached section 47(1) of the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act by unreasonably excluding him from standing in a union election.
Yunus argued that the union’s decision to suspend him had been carried out in a manner which transgressed the rule book. He further argued that even if he was properly suspended, the union rules did not prevent him from standing for union office as suspension was supposed to be a neutral matter.
“I have never been found guilty of any offence, and the disciplinary process had not even begun, so how could I be disciplined in this way? The decision to exclude me is clearly unreasonable,” he told the hearing.
Unison’s barrister and its representatives countered that the rules allowed suspension in such cases and that this, correctly understood, precluded standing for election. It was not a disciplinary process, they argued, simply carrying out the provisions of the suspension rule.
They further denied that an investigation into the events leading up to the suspension had been in any way “beefed up” or “sexed up” in a way that was misleading. Instead, they argued, clarifications had been sought on certain matters and when these clarifications were forthcoming, suspension was justified.
Yunus asked why some of the documents presented to the hearing appeared, as he saw it, to link him to allegations of intimidation including anonymous phone calls, window breaking and break ins which were said to have taken place between December 2006 and February 2007.
He asked why the police had not been informed if there were grounds for suspicion. But Kevan Nelson, the union’s head of democratic services, said there was no implication that Yunus was responsible for these acts.
However, Yunus said he felt he was being implicated and pointed out that he had been made aware that the window breaking and break in allegations were incorporated into a union investigation into him as a result of the disclosures for this case.
Unison investigator John Cafferty’s report, said Yunus, claimed allegations of window breaking had been received before this investigation began. Yunus also asked why investigators had trawled through his phone records to see if he had contacted any of those who had made the allegations if there was no implication he was involved.
In the past, Yunus has faced attacks on his house by Nazis, had his windows broken and the police installed a panic alarm at his home.
The Certification Officer’s decision is expected in about three weeks’ time.
If he is well enough, Yunus expects to begin an Employment Tribunal against his employer in the near future. He is funding the case himself.
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Four Unison union branch secretaries, who are all members of the Socialist Party, were set to have a union disciplinary hearing this week. In an attempt to weaken the left by creating a climate of fear inside the union they are being investigated for issuing a leaflet into last year’s national Unison conference.