Socialist Worker

Unison turns on health activist Yunus Bakhsh

Issue No. 2109

There was shock and anger in the Unison union this week as it emerged that its leaders plan to proceed with a discplinary hearing into Yunus Bakhsh, the high profile activist who last week was sacked from his job as a psychiatric nurse.

It intends to start proceedings just as Yunus hopes to be preparing an appeal against his management – and during the local government strike. Yunus, who has been diagnosed with depression and is signed-off sick, was dismissed after the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust held a disciplinary hearing in his absence.

The Trust based its case against Yunus on statements from anonymous witnesses that Yunus was not allowed to directly cross-examine. Therefore any possible malicious motivation for these “witnesses” to give evidence against Yunus was not explored.

It is for such reasons that Britain’s Law Lords recently declared, “No conviction should be based solely or to a decisive extent upon the statements and testimony of anonymous witnesses.”

That Yunus was not able to present his case and question those who have made allegations against him renders management’s hearing a show trial.

The Trust went ahead with its action despite being warned by doctors and its own occupational health services that Yunus was not fit to endure such a hearing, and that it could damage his future recovery.

Now it appears that the trade union whose job it ought to be to protect workers from such behaviour is set itself to repeat it.

Unison has told Yunus that it will proceed with its own “investigation”, whether or not Yunus is well enough to attend. The union last week told the press that it no longer represents Yunus, despite the fact that he remains a union member and is represented by an accredited Unison representative.

Yunus is facing charges that could see him expelled from the union, yet his illness means he will not even be accorded the opportunity to make a case in his defence.

The investigation will decide if Yunus broke Unison’s rules, but there has been no mention, let alone an apology, for the way that the union leadership broke its own rules to suspend him from office last year – despite the clear ruling of the trade union certification officer.

Unison’s leaders, fearing that on the basis of recent elections the left may soon control the union, are now engaged in a huge witchunt.

This is causing widespread anger with many believing that Unison ought to be investing its time fighting over pay, privatisation and similar issues, not attacking its own activists.

Send messages of support to [email protected] Send donations for Yunus’s ET costs, to Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign, c/o 46c Lawe Road, South Shields, Tyne & Wear NE33 2E

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Tue 8 Jul 2008, 19:08 BST
Issue No. 2109
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