A shocking story, a stunning display of solidarity:
More than 150 health workers in Manchester started continuous strike action today in support of a UNISON activist sacked for speaking out against health cuts.
Community psychiatric nurse Karen Reissman was sacked last week following a disciplinary hearing at which Manchester Mental Health Trust found her guilty of bringing it into disrepute.
UNISON is appealing the decision.
A member of UNISON’s national health executive and chair of her branch, Ms Reissman has been a vocal critic of government health policies and local health cuts.
UNISON says the trust’s treatment of Ms Reissman was intended to gag her and intimidate other stewards, and is a direct attack on the union.
It has pledged to vigorously defend members’ rights to speak out without fear of persecution.
Support for Ms Reissman has been flooding in from around the country since she was first suspended on 15 June – the same day she received a letter offering her a promotion.
There have been a number of public meetings calling for her reinstatement. And health workers covering all inpatient, hospital and community psychiatric services across the city of Manchester have been holding a rolling programme of strikes in her defence since August.
George Galloway, the Respect MP, has issued the following statement of support:
“The sacking of Karen Reissmann is an utter scandal that cannot be allowed to stand. She is a dedicated public servants who was sacked merely for speaking to the press in support of those she cares for and her workmates. I will be working with others in parliament to raise her case and to generate support for the action her fellow health workers are taking to win her reinstatement. Every trade unionist and everyone who puts people before profit should rally in support of Karen. I’ll be raising this issue in the media as well, which has a vested interest in ensuring that people can give interviews freely.
“I shared a platform with Karen in Manchester on Tuesday night. Anyone who has heard her speak knows she is a dedicated nurse and committed trade unionist. We need more psychiatric nurses like Karen. And we need more health service trade unionists like her – standing up not only for her members but crucially for those she looks after, some of the most vulnerable in society, those who have been driven to despair by a world in which profit rules and the devil take the hindmost.
“I know Respect members and representatives will be joining with others to raise solidarity for Karen and her striking colleagues. We must do all in our power to ensure she is reinstated.”
John McDonnell, leftwing Labour MP, has also spoken in support of the strike and has sought to raise Karen’s sacking in parliament:
Her sacking is an absolute disgrace. Karen is a community mental health nurse and a member of the Unison National Executive. Who benefits from her sacking? Certainly not the community she serves who rely on public service workers such as Karen who are prepared to defend the services they provide against cuts.