Over a thousand people braved the cold and the rain to support of victimised trade union activist Karen Reissman in Manchester on 24 November. The majority demonstrating were fellow workers, who remain on strike to support Karen as well as and patients and their families who support this important dispute.
The rest were trade unionists from around the country — left activists from the health service but also many from local government and a wide range of other unions and community campaigns. Teachers, civil servants and firefighters were all represented.
Karen is a nurse in Manchester and was basically sacked for being an effective trade union activist. If unchallenged Karen’s sacking would open the floodgates to a series of victimisations who dare to speak out. Her specific “crime” was speaking to the press about cuts and job losses in Manchester mental health service.
Karen’s union has escalated support action by calling a national day of action on 5 December (as we go to press).
With threats now being made to the strikers about reporting them for unprofessional behaviour the struggle is heating up, and unlike the usual tale in the NHS, there seem to be unlimited budgets available to help bust the strike.
Karen’s appeal against her sacking is now underway. Our website will cover the dispute over the Christmas period. In the meantime donations and letters of support are vital to maintain the strike at its current level.
Pressure should be put on local Labour councillors in Manchester and MPs. We should demand Unison leaders organise the union’s parliamentary group of MPs to put pressure on the Health Secretary to intervene and uphold the principle of freedom of speech for trade unionists in the public sector.
• Donations and messages of support can be sent to Manchester Community and Mental Health Unison branch, 70 Manchester Road, Manchester, M21 9UN. Phone 07972 120 451 or email email@example.com. Cheques should be made out to "Unison Manchester Community and Mental Health".
• For more information, visit
www.reinstate-karen.org. A petition can be downloaded there.