If you can be in Manchester this Thursday morning, be there. Karen Reissmann, a community nurse in the Mental Health Trust, is facing a disciplinary hearing from her employer.
Karen is charged with seriously affecting the reputation of her Trust. After she was suspended from work on the original charge, additional charges were made, accusing her of telling people she was suspended, claiming the allegations against her are false, allowing the press to print misleading articles and an allegation that Karen misused work time.
Karen has been a nurse for 25 years. On the day she was suspended she received a letter from her line management telling her she had been promoted! There is no doubt that Karen is an excellent nurse who through her clinical care has enhanced the reputation of the NHS.
Karen cares about defending the NHS. That’s why she has been suspended. She is an officer of her Unison branch, and a member of Unison’s Health Service Group Executive (roughly equivalent to the Amicus Health National Sector Committee). She has been suspended purely and simply because she is a leading union activist.
Karen’s union branch took strike action earlier this year to prevent staff cuts in community nursing. They won. The disciplinary charges, a few months on, are management’s attempt to attack the union organisation that won that victory.
Karen has never been a parochial trade unionist, concerned only with her own Trust. I have spoken on platforms with Karen defending the NHS as a whole. When Amicus members at Fujitsu in Manchester faced derecognition by their employer, Karen and her branch were there, supporting the Amicus strike.
The charges against Karen could be used against any trade unionist in the NHS. Anybody who complains that health provision is being endangered by cuts, restructuring, or privatisation can be accused of seriously affecting the reputation of their Trust. I’ve just had a request, through the Union’s Communications Department, to talk to the BBC about the state of Speech & Language Therapy in the NHS. I will tell them that most new graduates aren’t getting jobs, and about the tragic waste of human potential and public money that lies behind that. Is that seriously affecting the reputation of the NHS – or just telling the truth?
Karen’s Branch has taken 8 days of official strike action so far in her defence. Tens of thousands of pounds have been donated to the campaign by Unison health branches.
But this is not just a fight for Unison. We can not afford disunity between our health unions while Gordon Brown steps up his attacks. Unite/Amicus members should do everything in our power to support Karen Reissman and her colleagues. This is a fight in defence of trade union organisation.
What can you do?
- Come to the lobby on Thursday 18th at 8am at Chorlton House, 70 Manchester Road, Chorlton. Lobby Leaflet
- Send an email of protest to Shelia Foley, Chief Executive of Karen’s Trust to Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org and copy in the local Unison branch email@example.com
- Collect signatures on the Petition in support of Karen and send to them to the Unison Branch.Send a donation to the dispute strike fund. Cheques should be made out to “Manchester Community and Mental Health Unison” and sent to the Union Office, Chorlton House, 70 Manchester Road, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9UN
- Invite Karen or a speaker from the Unison branch to your own branch meeting or workplace to explain the issues further.