Friday, 20 June 2014

Ros Hanmer's speech on Motion 53: 'Defending Trade Union Activists' UNISON NDC 2014

Good afternoon chair and conference, I'm Rosalind Hanmer, London Met Uni UNISON branch, LGBT officer, and first time speaker at this conference [you can now watch this speech here].

I move this motion pointing out journalist and activist Owen Jones who writes "the decline of the trade unions is what lies  at the heart of the problems of the working class" the fact that they don't have a voice , their stagnating wages , their lack of rights in the workplace and the anti-trade union laws legislation which is increasing, continues to restrict the ability of the unions to represent its people with dignity and pride.  

We the activists are fighting in another climate of greed, stupidly and ignorance that has been named as austerity. Francis O'Grady the TUC  secretary spoke out in March this year about David Cameron's plans to review the trade unions as nothing more than a headline grabbing stunt on behalf of this government. 
Stunt or not, London metropolitan university felt the weight of this attack and the effect of its full force used against trade union activists who were standing on the front line protecting their members from a society and it laws that are not based on the people's needs, but on private profit and the protection of the rich while demonising the trade union and working class movement in the process.

We must protect our members with the full support from the NEC' s team, it is imperative that as activists we are recognised being able to live vibrantly through all our struggles full of confidence that at the crucial moment we have complete unity to transform the victimisation or persecution of any of our comrades. 

Londonmet branch did this, we turned the "impossible into the possible".

Max Watson, who is our Branch Secretary, and also sits on the NEC, was suspended on 7th Feb 2013 alongside Steve Jefferys and Jawad Botmeh. After 2,500 names on a petition, over 500 letters of protest, and hundreds on lobbies, protests and rallies where we united our  community behind a common cause, after a five week campaign, - including with support of the UNISON President and the NEC - by 13th March, Max, Jawad and Steve were all back in work. 

At the time, Max said: "This is about privatisation and about our right to challenge the management rather than manage their challenges."

Mark Serwotka told a public meeting, to show his union's support: 

"What is at stake here is that an incompetent management, when everyone can see what a tissue of lies this is, can get away with victimising or ultimately sacking people on such a trumped up set of charges.

"I cannot think of a more important reason for trade unions everywhere to get behind this campaign. 

"Because if we can stop it here, it sends an equally powerful message to everybody on our side, which is – when we stand together we can win and stop them in their tracks."

That is what we did. We stood united, and management backed down! 

We turned their poison into our medicine and we are very proud of winning our campaign. 

This week, we've had five delegates at NDC, and we're a small branch - because we are very proud of our achievement. 

And by moving this motion we want every one of you to feel the same pride in winning like we did if your employers come for you.

I will finish on this statement made by  PCS's Mark Serwotka, NUT's Christine Blower and CWU's Billy Hayes, who suggest  "The trade union's customary right to strike and the right to protest are fundamental liberties that have already been significantly restricted by anti-union laws", and as this motion states: this will not happen on our watch!  

The late Bob Crow wrote to London Met to say the RMT refuses to engage with anti union employers and threatened to pull out funding of students at London Met. He stated  that the RMT union takes a very robust stance when RMT reps are victimized and he put his money where his mouth was! 

Thanks also to Paul Holmes, from the NEC, who spoke inspirationally at our Branch Committee the week after Max was suspended - this helped boost our confidence that we could win. And we did win.

So please support this motion which asks for protection for all trade unionists and activists fighting for cultural, economic and social justice.

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