On Monday 5 November psychiatric nurse and chair of the Manchester Community and Mental Health branch of UNISON, Karen Reissmann, was sacked by the local mental health trust. Karen’s crime was to have spoken out publicly as a trade unionist against a reorganisation of mental health services that would have led to cuts.
The four charges for which she was found guilty were:
• When she was interviewed in December 2006 and criticised the transfer of NHS work to the voluntary sector, she brought the Trust into disrepute;
• Telling people that she was suspended and what for;
• Protesting her innocence;
• Allowing the press to print information, some misleading, about her case.
This is a direct attack on the rights of trade unionists to campaign against job and service cuts and against victimisations. The mental health workers are determined to fight both.
They have already held two three day strikes in support of Karen and from 8
November 150 workers in community mental health and crisis resolution teams
will go on indefinite strike, with a further one day strike of all members of the branch scheduled.
The strike has the support of service users. At an 80 strong lunchtime rally in
Manchester Town Hall, Paul Reed of the users’ network said he supported the strike because users were worried that if the reorganisation went through, they would lose the regular personal attention from nurses they knew. Instead the nurses would just become “drug pushers”, appearing less often just to administer medication.
Karen Reissmann deserves the support of all trade unionists. Hers will be a test case for whether we are able to oppose publicly the new regime of market-led “reforms” in public services being pushed by the government.
It will also be a test for whether UNISON and the rest of the labour movement can give effective support to that fight. The union branch expects to be able to
pay very substantial hardship pay to all strikers and will be sending delegations of strikers around the country to speak to other trade unionists and raise money. Already there have been significant promises of money from a number of branches. But more will be needed.
If you want to make a donation please send to “Manchester Community and Mental Health branch UNISON” c/o union office, Chorlton House, 70 Manchester Rd,
Manchester M21 9UN.
Or if you want a speaker at your next union meeting please contact email@example.com or 07972 120 451. A Saturday demonstration is also planned in Manchester, probably on 24 November.
• More: www.reinstate-karen.org