Yunus Bakhsh, the high profile nurse and activist who was unlawfully sacked for trade union activities, won reinstatement at an employment tribunal last week.
The decision shocked bosses at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust who sacked the mental health nurse in 2008 after two decades of unblemished service.
The sanction is among the highest the court can order. Of the 40,000 unfair dismissal claims before tribunals in 2007–8, only eight led to orders to reinstate the employee.
This is the latest phase in a five-year campaign for justice.
At the time of his suspension, bosses claimed to have evidence that Yunus bullied other workers.
It emerged later that some of those who witnessed against the high profile black trade unionist in a management investigation had previously joined racist-inspired groups on Facebook.
An employment tribunal ruled last year that Yunus’s sacking was due to his trade union activity.
It also agreed that he had suffered disability discrimination after he became so ill with depression that he was unable to attend disciplinary hearings.
The tribunal judgement mercilessly attacked evidence that Trust directors and senior managers had submitted.
Elizabeth Latham, the Trust’s head of human resources, played a crucial role in Yunus’s sacking. She drew particular criticism. The panel dismissed her statements as “not credible”.
The tribunal judgement suggested that Latham was part of a well-laid plan to get rid of Yunus.
Now a judge has ordered that bosses not only re-employ Yunus, but that they compensate him for lost earnings and pay a penalty for discriminating against him.
Yunus told Socialist Worker that he is “jubilant” at the decision. “All I’ve ever wanted is to return to my job as a nurse in the NHS, which I love,” he said. “It’s one of the things I’m passionate about, and what I’m trained to do.”
Bosses now face the uncomfortable prospect of explaining why an NHS Trust has spent thousands of pounds persecuting a highly respected worker for five years only to have to re-employ him and pay hefty fines.
They will also be asked to explain why Kerry Cafferty—one of those who accused Yunus of bullying but who was later exposed as being Facebook friends with BNP supporters—now has a job with the Trust as a nurse.
Bosses must explain how such views are compatible with their equal opportunities policies.
Cafferty’s employment came to light when lawyers for the Trust used it as a reason for why they should not be made to offer Yunus his job back.
Yunus describes the last five years as a “nightmare”.
“The huge support I’ve had from trade unionists across Britain is the only reason I have been able to withstand it,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I’d like to say thank you to each and every one of them.”
As trade unionists prepare for battle with bosses pushing cuts, it is vital that unions show they will defend their lay activists.
Union leaders must show that the lessons of Yunus’s case have been learned. When shop stewards fight, they need to know they have the full support of their union.
A five-year struggle
- August 2006 Yunus speaks out against his bosses awarding themselves pay rises as they cut the budget for patient food.
- September 2006 Managers suspend Yunus after receiving an “anonymous” letter alleging he was a bully.
- January 2007 Unison leaders suspend Yunus from elected office while launching an inquiry into identical allegations with identical “witnesses”.
- June 2008 Management sacks Yunus.
- November 2008 Unison expels Yunus.
- January 2009 A key accuser is revealed to have joined racist-inspired Facebook groups and be “friends” with BNP members.
- July 2010 Tribunal rules that bosses unlawfully sacked Yunus for trade union activity and discriminated against him on grounds of disability.
- April 2011 Judge fines trust bosses and orders them to reinstate Yunus.