Four Socialist Party members were disciplined by Unison on trumped-up charges of racism, after producing a leaflet at the 2007 Unison conference, challenging the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) about ruling resolutions off the conference agenda. After a three-year long battle, we have at last been given justice in a court of law. Unison has been ruled to have acted unlawfully in disciplining us, banning us from office and taking control of our branches.
For three years the union officials have tried to hide behind the smear of racism, citing the three wise monkeys cartoon on the leaflet. But the judgment is absolutely clear on this question: “It is obvious to anyone looking at the cartoon that it is meant to represent the well-known image of the three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.” The judge was coincidentally an Asian woman.
She later goes on to say that: “All four claimants are committed anti-racists and have fought against racism. They quite reasonably assumed that anyone who saw the leaflet would understand the cartoon to be saying that the SOC was out of touch and closing its mind to and ignoring issues that concerned the membership.The cartoon was not a pictorial depiction of the members of the SOC… but a representation of its attitude towards motions that were submitted to it.”
She describes the evidence from the chair of the SOC as being “inconsistent” and says that it wasn’t credible. She also challenges the London regional secretary of Unison, Linda Perks. Linda Perks had stated the importance of the perception of the alleged complainants about the leaflet but had failed to speak to any black members of the union, including Beverly Miller, chair of the union’s Black Members’ Committee and Clytus Williams, chair of the SOC. In relation to the cartoon the judge says: “It must be emphasised that the monkeys in the cartoon could not by any stretch of the imagination be seen to be a caricature of Mr Williams.”
What is clear is that we’ve been disciplined because we had the temerity to demand the right to debate whether union officials should be elected and live off a worker’s wage, whether ordinary members should have control over strike action and whether the union should carry on funding the Labour Party, particularly at a time when a Labour government was voting through thousands of redundancies of our members.
Many members, who are delighted at the tribunal result, are demanding that the bans be lifted, that we be reinstated in our branch and national positions and that our Unison branches be taken out of regional administration. Tens of thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours have been used to try to prosecute this case against us. Members have a right to know that every penny in the union and every moment will be used in defence of their jobs and aimed at the real enemy which is the employers and this government.
We call on all Unison members and branches to demand that this injustice be undone. Plans are also being made to lobby Unison’s national executive council.