Organising for a democratic UNISON

By Pat Lawlor, UNISON nursing convenor RVH Belfast (personal capacity)

Health service workers are now faced with massive job losses. As a result of these cuts, staff will be faced with an increased workload and will struggle to maintain a proper service to patients.

Yet, rather than gearing up to oppose job losses and fight cuts, the right wing leadership of Unison are busy conducting a witch-hunt against their own activists.

I am the Unison nursing convenor in the RVH. My time as a union rep has been spent defending my members and campaigning to oppose the attack on the health service.

Yet the Unison leadership have decided to expel me. The grounds they have given to justify this are that I criticised them for not taking part in the strike by Classroom Assistants.

This is not the real reason for my expulsion. The regional Unison leadership are well aware of my opposition to their partnership deals that result in attacks on workers’ terms and conditions. They are equally aware of the growing anger and frustration of their members at their compromise and capitulation to the NI Assembly. 

They are frightened of a truly democratic union emerging from the membership that will challenge them and force them either to fight on our behalf or else stand aside and make way for others who are prepared to do so. This is why they have begun a process of purging socialists and the left from UNISON. 

My campaign for re-instatement has already brought to the fore the anger that is building amongst members at the role of the present leadership. I have been contacted by many members from Unison across the health service. Their stories are all similar; relaying concerns and complaints about how the Unison leadership has let them down or, worse, has sold them out.

It is clear from the many examples of sell outs that are surfacing that Unison members urgently need to build an opposition that will fight to reclaim our union. We need a fully democratic union that will break with cosy partnership arrangements with management and will fight on our behalf.

The first step will be a meeting in Belfast in late November to discuss how this opposition will be built. My campaign for reinstatement will be part of the overall struggle to change the union.

I am appealing to all members to support my campaign and to join the battle for democracy in our union. You can find further details including details of the forthcoming meeting online at:





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