The campaign to defend Karen Reissmann, the psychiatric nurse and Unison union activist who has been suspended from work, is continuing to gain support.
A host of local doctors, service users, carers, and senior trade unionists have declared their opposition to Manchester Mental Health & Social Care Trust’s decision to suspend her.
Now activists are organising a major public meeting in Manchester to coincide with the meeting of Unison’s health executive there on Wednesday 25 July. Already Lillian Macer, the chair of the executive, and Karen Jennings, Unison’s head of health, have agreed to speak.
The meeting will take place on the day that NHS employers’ organisations must make an improved pay offer if they are to avert a ballot for strike action.
Karen, who is the chair of her union branch, was suspended after she spoke out to the press about the privatisation of services provided by her members.
In defence of the policy of her national union, she argued that the handing of provision to the voluntary sector would lead to an erosion of pay and conditions for health workers.
The north west health committee of Unison last week gave Karen their unanimous backing and reaffirmed her right to speak out.
Marie Lloyd, who chairs the committee, told Socialist Worker that Karen has support in every health branch of the union.
She said, “The message we are sending is that if you attack one of us, you attack us all.
“The public have a right to know what is happening to their health service – and health trade unionists have a duty to tell the public about the threats that the NHS faces.
“Every union rep understands what is at stake here. If an employer is able to sack or discipline a trade unionist for speaking out, then no one is safe.”
Last week the national executive of the PCS civil service workers’ union voted unanimously to back Karen’s campaign. They are sending her a message of support and a letter of protest to the trust.
Karen’s workmates have already voted to ballot for strike action in defence of their union branch chair – a call that has been supported by her regional officials.
Unison’s industrial action committee was to decide on the matter as Socialist Worker went to press.
It is vital that agreement for a ballot for strike action is given quickly in order to harness the angry mood of the branch.
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