THE WITCH-HUNT of members of the Socialist Party in Unison has now extended to Northern Ireland. Pat Lawlor, Unison convenor for nursing in the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast, who has continually campaigned for Unison members in opposition to low pay, cuts in services and privatisation, is currently under ‘investigation’ by the union’s national executive.
Eileen Keenan, Northern Ireland Unison member in education, personal capacity
This is after a spurious complaint was made against Pat for sending a message of solidarity to striking classroom assistants on 27 November 2007.
The dispute by classroom assistants to defend their pay, terms and conditions became a protracted and bitter struggle between the striking workers, the management of the Education and Library Board (ELB) and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The proposed deal by the ELB amounted to a pay cut of up to 18.5% through extending their working hours and taking away special allowances from those workers.
The classroom assistants refused this derisory offer and looked to their union leaderships. Unison’s leadership, who organise the second-largest number of members next to NIPSA, initially accepted the offer but were forced to back-track when their membership rejected the deal.
Instead of balloting their members and calling for coordinated strike action amongst all the unions involved, the Unison leadership continually refused a ballot.
Pat expressed solidarity with workers and highlighted the disgraceful role of the right-wing leadership in Unison. He now faces disciplinary action.
Since January 2008, the Northern Ireland regional leadership have attempted twice to suspend Pat. He was democratically elected to represent the members’ interests, in contrast to an unelected regional leadership. Pat has continually demanded that all officers of Unison should be regularly elected and accountable to their members.