Imagine that a well-known union activist was sacked as a result of false allegations that he had subjected his colleagues to a campaign of criminal intimidation – without ever being told of the charges against him. You would expect his union to be up in arms.
Incredibly this is what appears to have happened to Yunus Bakhsh – only it’s both his employer and his union, Unison, that have done this to him. Unison suspended Yunus from his union positions in January 2007.
He was told it was because he faced allegations of “bullying and harassment”. He was given only the vaguest outline of what he was supposed to have done.
When he wrote to the union asking what the charges were, he was told there were no charges.
Yet, when Yunus asked Unison why they had trawled through his phone records, they said that this was because some of the complainants had reported anonymous threatening phone calls.
Unison confirmed they found no evidence to suggest Yunus made those calls. Yunus was left with no choice other than to make a complaint to the Certification Officer, who oversees the conduct of trade unions.
The information that has come to light as a result of that complaint that will shock trade unionists everywhere. Unison released copies of two interim reports into Yunus.
In one, issued in February 2007, Unison’s investigator wrote, “Following on from the initial allegations of bullying and harassment, several of the complainants reported to the Northern Region that they were being subject to a campaign of intimidation, in the form of anonymous phone calls at various times throughout the day and night and break-ins and window breakages to their homes.”
Yunus was shocked that such sick claims had been made against him.
Why had Unison never told him he was under investigation for what are criminal allegations?
In his evidence to the Certification Officer, Unison’s investigator claimed panic alarms had been installed in some of the complainants’ houses.
After the hearing Yunus’ solicitor wrote to Unison demanding the union withdraw the slurs. There was no reply and Unison proceeded with its disciplinary.
Last month Northumbria Police wrote confirming that they “hold no information to suggest any allegations have been made against your client, Yunus Bakhsh.”
It is inconceivable that anyone who had faced such incidents, which were disturbing enough to have panic alarms fitted, would not report this to the police.
Yunus was removed from elected office based on allegations made by individuals, several of whom claimed that he had committed acts of criminal intimidation against them.
It appears the union didn’t ask the complainants for any proof that these acts happened.
Yunus has been left with no alternative other than to inform Unison that he intends to take them to court for defamation.
Our unions must be free from witchhunts.