Wednesday 7th March 2012 at 1:47pm
Back in spring 2009, I wrote a short piece for the Haldane Soicety’s magazine Socialist Lawyer noting the case of four Unison officers, Glen Kelly, Onay Kasab, Suzanne Muna and Brian Debus who were being investigated by their union for producing a leaflet which was distributed at its 2007 conference. The leaflet criticised the union’s standing orders committee for preventing motions being discussed which raised issues such as the union’s funding of the Labour party, the election of union officials, and branches’ rights to organise industrial action. The leaflet likened the members of the committee to three wise monkeys, not seeing, hearing or speaking evil. The four union officers were all members of the Socialist Party (formerly the Militant).
It is a great pleasure to record that at the end of a five year battle, the EAT (in a judgment which is now available on Bailii) has upheld the decision of the ET that the union members were unjustifiably disciplined by the union.
The most interesting part of the case for lawyers is the discussion of whether the relevant sections of Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992) infringe the free association rights of trade unions (article 11 ECHR). The EAT noted that there is academic scepticism as to the legality of the statute, in so far as it limits union’s powers to take action against those undermining strikes; but this criticism could not help Unison in the present case, as the activists had simply been unreasonably disciplined, and the disciplinry action had nothing to do with strikes.
The four members concerned have been consistently supported by some activists within Unison including the blogger Jon Rogers, who is a member of Unison’s NEC.
Surely this was a case where Unison would have done better to simply accept the original ET decision rather than waste scarce union resources on a fruitless appeal?
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