PCS branches are mobilising to defend workplace reps victimised for union activity.
Lee Rock in Sheffield, Jon Bigger in Merseyside, and Kevin Smith in Bootle all face the sack for trade union activity. For more on these cases, and how labour movement activists can support Lee, Jon, and Kevin, see here.
The Civil Service Rank-and-File Network (CSRF), a newly-formed grouping of PCS activists, is planning local actions to coincide with the European TUC’s Day of Action on 13 March.
Union officials block Lewisham hospital fight
Activists in Lewisham Hospital in south London are discussing their next steps after the leadership of the Unison branch blocked attempts to mobilise workers to fight against cuts and closure.
Unison, which is the majority union at the hospital with 500 members, refused to take motions proposing a fight against closure at its 6 March AGM, and refused to give members a copy of the branch rules under which the motions were ruled out of order.
One worker told Solidarity: “The agenda had been decided in advance, and both of the motions submitted were ruled out of order, one because of the fear of ‘legal jeopardy’ - without explanation, and the other because the current events don’t constitute an emergency. There's no need, they say, to act on this with any urgency.
“There were no other motions tabled and no formal policy decided.
“They were three short of their quorum, but that didn't matter because the branch committee is able to deal with any matters arising themselves, they don't need a general members meeting to do this! The branch committee concludes there is little need to mount a campaign as a union around the threats to our hospital as they don't feel this is serious, and they reiterated their commitment to ensuring that not a penny of union funds is given to Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.”
Workers involved in the local campaign will now discuss whether they feel able to mount a fight to turn the Unison branch around in the next period, or whether other strategies, such as building the currently very small Unite branch in the hospital, are more viable.
Unite has indicated a greater willingness to fight and may be more open and democratic.
Sheffield drug workers face cuts
Services supporting people to recover from problematic drug use are facing cuts to their budgets from Council-based commissioners that will likely lead to job losses.
The Arundel Street Project and Turning Point’s services will both lose 10% of their funding from April, whilst providers of Methadone and prescribed treatment will be left short staffed.
Workers in the different voluntary sector services came together in February to plan how to put pressure on the Labour-run council to stop the planned cuts that many believe could lead to an increase in crime, the transmission of viruses like Hepatitis and HIV, and child abuse, as workers struggle with fewer resources to deliver high-quality preventative interventions.
The cuts come after years of stagnation in the funding of drug treatment in Sheffield, resistance to which is hampered by a competitive system of contracts and groups of workers played off against each other.
Maintaining solidarity in these conditions is tough, especially without industrial muscle, whilst the actions of “right-on” funding and service managers only serve to highlight the exploitative nature of a sector, so often lauded by left liberals.
Jawad Botmeh reinstated
Campaigners have succeeded in securing reinstatement for Jawad Botmeh, one of three trade union activists sacked at London Metropolitan University.
The university claimed that Jawad had failed to reveal a conviction for his role in a car bombing in 1994. But not only had Jawad informed London Met of this, a high-profile campaign was conducted which branded his conviction a “gross miscarriage of justice”.
Steve Jefferys, the head of London Met’s Working Lives Research Institute where Jawad works, and Max Watson, the chair of the London Met Unison branch, remain suspended.
The campaign continues.