RODDY Slorach, one of Scotland's leading trade unionists, has been expelled from his UNISON public sector workers' union. UNISON leaders have thrown Roddy out of the union for daring to stand up to New Labour. The move has caused outrage. A major campaign is under way to win Roddy's reinstatement. Roddy explained to Socialist Worker what happened:
I'VE BEEN expelled from my union after nine years as a trade unionist, and all but six months of that as a shop steward. My only crime is implementing the decisions of the members I represent. I'm supposed to have 'brought the union into disrepute' because of quotes attributed to me in the Scottish press, in newspapers which never tire of attacking workers and the unions.
It comes out of the social work strike in 1998. The council suspended three workers for carrying out union branch policy over boycotting certain tasks in a campaign against cuts and privatisation. Hundreds of workers walked out within hours of the suspensions. Soon up to 2,000 were out. The Labour controlled council used the Tory anti-union laws, and UNISON leader Rodney Bickerstaffe repudiated the workers' action. I'm supposed to have said at a union meeting that I was sick of Bickerstaffe and that people were right to defy the anti-union laws.
In the end the council backed down and the workers were reinstated. The council and UNISON leaders have wanted revenge for that strike. I'm one of the targets. But it's about the fact that the strike showed people were prepared to stand up to bullying New Labour employers and fight independently of union leaders. I'm being attacked for playing a leading role in that strike and for being a socialist.
The press has wheeled out the most filthy red baiting, with headlines such as 'Red Rod's Sabotage Squad'. I'm proud to be a socialist and in the Socialist Workers Party. I stood as a Socialist Workers Party candidate for the Scottish Parliament in May. Just before that the Labour council suspended me over a fax I circulated, with the agreement of my shop stewards committee, about a meeting and demo opposing the bombing in the Balkans. Later the union branch and UNISON nationally also took an anti-war position. But neither the branch leaders nor national union leaders did much to back me.
The council retreated from sacking me because of the support I won, but they disciplined 27 of my workmates and sacked two of them. Now the union has weighed in and thrown me out after hearings that were just a kangaroo court. It shows the lengths the union leaders are prepared to go to to stay in bed with New Labour. I'm determined to fight this, and my fellow union members are backing me.
The shop stewards committee in my social work department has unanimously condemned my expulsion and has called a protest for 4 December. Everyone who cares about democracy in the unions, about free speech, and about standing up to the attacks we face from New Labour should back the fight for my reinstatement in the union.