Socialist Worker

Caroline Bedale: barred from union office for defence of nurse

Issue No. 2178

Caroline Bedale, one of the most respected trade unionists in Manchester, has been barred from holding office in the Unison union for eight years – until a year after she is due to retire.

The shocking decision came after a Unison disciplinary committee found Caroline guilty of charges relating to things she did after the union withdrew legal assistance from Karen Reissmann, a nurse and union activist sacked after she spoke out against privatisation.

As the joint branch secretary of Unison’s Manchester Community and Mental Health branch, Caroline is known to many in the north west of England as a tireless fighter for her members – and someone who for over three decades has dedicated herself to building the trade unions.

Unison charged Caroline with attempting to secure alternative legal representation for Karen and campaigning against Unison’s policy to withdraw her legal support.

Despite these charges being easy to refute, Unison nevertheless found her guilty.

The idea that this constitutes “justice” in Unison would be enough to outrage many activists.

But it is the charges relating to what Caroline is alleged to have done in a private capacity that have caused the most anger.

These include: allowing her private telephone number to be used as a contact point on a press release from the independent Reinstate Karen Reissmann Campaign and sending a personal message from her own computer to members of the Unison United Left organisation to let them know what was happening in Karen’s case.

This, says Unison, constituted a campaign against Unison policy.

This is despite the fact that the union maintains that it continued to support Karen’s demand for reinstatement, despite its withdrawal of legal assistance.

Caroline was found not guilty of breaking any rules by sending the email but was found guilty of acting in a manner prejudicial to the union!

Activists in Unison see the attack on Caroline as yet another attempt by the union’s pro-Labour leadership to silence the left and are determined to resist.

Send a letter to Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, and to Gerry Gallagher, president of the Unison’s national executive, at Unison, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ.

Download a copy of the model motion in support of Caroline from » and pass it in your branch

Send messages of support to

Come to the public meeting in support of Caroline. Monday 23 November, 7.30pm, Friends Meeting House, Mount Street (near Manchester Town Hall)

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Article information

Tue 17 Nov 2009, 17:15 GMT
Issue No. 2178
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