The hypocrisy involved in the persecution of Yunus Bakhsh, a psychiatric nurse from Tyneside who has been hounded out of his job and the Unison union, was underlined last week as it emerged Unison has breached its own rules and statute law in payments to the Labour Party.
The shocking revelations came in a case before the official Certification Officer for trade unions.
Unison is officially linked to the Labour Party, and is one of its biggest financial donors. This money comes from an Affiliated Political Fund, which Unison members can pay into.
Union members who do not wish to pay money to Labour can however pay into a General Political Fund instead. This fund must not be used to support Labour, either directly or indirectly, but is used for the union’s political campaigns.
Yunus last week argued that overwhelming evidence demonstrated that the North Glasgow Health branch of Unison and the Glasgow Community Health branch had made payments to the Labour Party from the general fund.
On repeated occasions, including Yunus’s case, the union demanded harsh action against anyone on the left who is deemed to have used union funds for political purposes.
Plymouth activist Tony Staunton, for example, was expelled from Unison in 2008 for “misappropriation and use of union resources for factional and party political purposes”.
The allegation was that the compilation of emails using a Unison computer constituted the use of union resources for party political purposes.
Unison had previously admitted that Yunus had correctly identified a string of donations to Labour causes that had come from the general fund.
But the union leadership did not engage in expulsions and suspensions from office. Instead it was said to be a matter of “crossed wires” that could be safely dealt with by retraining and advice.
Yunus contrasted this approach with a case in 1997, in which the Westminster branch of Unison donated £100 to the Socialist Worker Appeal.
The then Unison general secretary said this was a breach of the political fund rules, the money was returned, and all branches informed about the case and the rules about political funding.
Yunus asked why the same had not happened in this case where the sum total of alleged breaches is £5,037.41.
Yunus argued that from at least October 2004, serious breaches of the law and union rules had taken place. But very senior officials, including Kevan Nelson, the union’s head of democratic services, had not taken action.
He further charged that none of this would have been made public without this referral to the Certification Officer. The union denies these charges.
Raising funds for tribunal
Yunus Bakhsh finally has a chance to seek justice at an employment tribunal – but he urgently needs the help of the trade union movement and other supporters to make sure his campaign doesn’t fall at the final hurdle.
Yunus needs to raise funds for legal representation at his employment tribunal against his former employer, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, due to take place in March. He is alleging victimisation on the grounds of trade union activity, race and disability discrimination.
Because Yunus has been victimised by his union, Unison, as well as his employer, he must fund his tribunal on his own.
After more than three years of campaigning, the movement must ensure that Yunus is not priced out of his chance for justice. Please send a donation yourself, and get your union branch to send money as well. One CWU union branch has already sent £800 to the fund.
Send donations payable to Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign c/o 46c Lawe Rd, South Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE33 2EN. Email firstname.lastname@example.org