Sacking of Socialist Nurse Overturned


Yunus Bakhsh, a psychiatric nurse from the north east of England has won a four year battle against his bosses.  Sadly his union, the public service giant UNISON, was about as much use as a tailor in a nudist camp.  This should be of interest to the 39,000 workers in Northern Ireland who are in Unison.

Yunus had a 23-year spotless record in nursing.  What annoyed his employer, the local NHS trust, was his union activity and radical views.  He was the union branch secretary and also a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Just before his suspension from work he had really pissed off management by publicising their large salary increases while at the same time leading a campaign to stop the closure of a local care home. In 2006 he was suspended, but management refused to give any clear reason.  They later claimed they were acting on “anonymous allegations of bullying and intimidation” at a staff meeting.

Four months after this his own union, who he expected to defend him, suspended him from membership.  They alleged he had been using the union branch office for SWP activities.

It was subsequently discovered that the allegations against Yanus came from two other members of his union branch, Peter and Kerry Cafferty. Were they credible complainants?  Peter is chair of the union’s health division in northern England.  However his wife, Kerry, had some interesting stuff on her Facebook page.  She was a member of groups like ‘No more asylum-seekers in Britain’ and ‘Make Britain Great Again’.  There was also a photo of the couple giving nazi salutes.

The nazi website Stormfront was even more informative.  There were postings about the allegations, but these appeared before any complaint had been made.  They were going after Yanus because of anti-fascist leaflets the union branch planned to distribute. His home was daubed with racist graffiti and his windows broken. The British National Party also hated him for his role in getting a fascist sacked in 2005.

Under attack from his employer and badly let down by the union he had served for decades, and a disciplinary process that dragged on for nearly two years, Yanus sank into depression.  He was too ill to attend his final hearing.  His doctors asked for an adjournment but this was refused and he was sacked.

In the meantime head office closed down the union branch.  Members who showed support for Yunus were shouted down by union officials. Management were over the moon and began imposing changes on the workforce.  Correctly, they saw that a union which would not defend its own activists was hardly likely to stand up to that same management.

In August of this year Yunus won his claim for unfair dismissal.  He also won a claim for discrimination as the hearing where his sacking was decided went ahead in his absence despite his being too ill to attend.  The employment tribunal found him a “straight-forward and credible witness”.  The NHS trust’s head of Human Resources, Elizabeth Lathem was deemed “not credible”.  It was revealed that she had met in secret with a Unison regional officer, Elizabeth Twist, to discuss the sacking.  The tribunal asked whether the NHS trust “found in Twist and Unison an ally and a shared sense of purpose to remove the claimant?”

There is something very wrong when union officials collaborate with an employer to rid themselves of a militant trade unionist.  Yunus is calling for an independent investigation into his expulsion from the union.