Socialist Worker

Karen Reissmann - victimised for speaking out against health pay deal?

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2629

Some health workers opposed the pay deal cobbled together by union leaders and the Tories

Some health workers opposed the pay deal cobbled together by union leaders and the Tories (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Solidarity is growing for a nurse and leading union activist who has been suspended from holding office in the Unison union.

Karen Reissmann is widely known as someone who spoke out against this years’ NHS pay deal.

She said the agreement fell short of what workers could have won—and refused to support it. The deal was cobbled together by the Tories and the leaderships of 13 health unions.

Karen is an elected member of Unison’s national executive and its health service group executive. Her suspension means she is unable to take her place on these important bodies.

She is also a supporter of Socialist Worker newspaper and a trade union militant who fights for workers and patients in the NHS.

In 2007 she was sacked by a previous employer after speaking out over NHS cuts and privatisation.

A two-year battle included 14 days of strikes in her defence by 700 workers and an all-out strike of a week by 150 others. It ended with a settlement at an employment tribunal.

Karen Reissmann

Karen Reissmann (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Now growing numbers of Unison members are raising concerns about Karen’s suspension. A statement initiated by many of them said, “We note that Karen Reissmann is currently suspended from office in Unison.

“She has been outspoken about the NHS pay deal. She believes NHS workers could have done better from this weak government and that Unison materials were ­misleading to members.

“We are concerned these views and her suspension are linked.”

“Whatever our own personal view of the NHS pay deal, or if we have no view at all, we believe that any investigation of branches or individuals should be withdrawn and Karen’s suspension should be immediately lifted.”

Concerns

Karen’s suspension comes as workers raise concerns that many health unions mis-sold their members this year’s pay deal (see below).

All the health unions, apart from the GMB, pushed for their members to accept the three-year agreement.

The Unison members’ statement said, “We are aware branches were threatened with disciplinary action if they opposed the NHS pay deal.

“We are opposed to disciplinary action being threatened or instigated against individuals or branches for simply expressing a different view from the national leadership on issues that affect members or for campaigning among the membership to alter Unison policy on any issues.

“Unison needs healthy debate, not the silencing of opposing views.

A revolt in the Royal College of Nursing union over the mis-selling of the pay deal saw the ­leadership lose a vote of no confidence and resign.

It was a vindication of all those across the unions who campaigned against the deal.

This has made the leadership of Unison nervous as it was one of the key unions which pushed for its members to accept the agreement.

The leaders of the 13 health unions should reopen the deal and fight to get more from this weak government.

The Unison leadership should immediately lift Karen’s suspension and withdraw any disciplinary action.

To sign the statement in support of Karen go to https://bit.ly/2qBeASp and for details of the campaign go here

How the deal was sold

The health unions mis-sold the deal to their members. Many were shocked when they got pay slips showing only tiny pay increases.

NHS pay scales are made up bands, subdivided into incremental points.

Health workers who haven’t reached the top of their pay band moved up these points at an annual increment date.

Unison and the other unions had a pay calculator on their websites.

It suggested people not at the top of their pay bands would get pay rises on 1 April that they were not due until their increment date.

This date could be up to 11 and half months later.

The Royal College of Nursing asked Electoral Reform Services to conduct an investigation of how the deal was presented. It found that the pay calculator “was not able to relay the nuances of the deal”.

“It was not able to provide sufficient detail to members on how the deal would be implemented and affect pay packets in the short term,” it said.


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