Over a thousand people braved the cold and the rain to come out in support of victimised trade union activist Karen Reissman in Manchester on 24 November. The majority were her fellow workers, who are on strike to support Karen, and patients and their families who are also in support of this important dispute.
The rest were trade unionists from around the country, some from as far away as London, up for the day with their banners to demonstrate their solidarity. It would be fair to say that most of the left activists inside the health service made an appearance but that wasn't the limit of the support for Karen. Alongside the UNISON Health Branches, there were many more from local government and a wide range of other unions and community campaigns.
The NUT, CWU, FBU and others were all represented. If unchallenged Karen's sacking would open the floodgates to a series of victimisations of public sector trade unionists who dare to speak out. "crime" was speaking to the press about cuts in services and jobs. Basically she was sacked for being a trade unionist, as there is nothing more basic than to defend members and the services provide by letting the public know what's going on.
From the platform there was again a wide range of speakers from trade unions, funny and eloquent from service users testifying to Karen's dedication to providing a decent service and a local Labour MP amongst others. UNISON was represented by Bob Abberley, Deputy General Secretary. He made clear the union's support, which is now to be escalated to calling a national day of action on 5 December.
Compared to the national demonstration on 3 November this was a passionate affair that would make anyone attending feel proud to be there. The NHS was spoken about as something vital to the everyday lives of working people not some nice idea in the abstract as in London.
With threats now being made to the strikers about reporting them for unprofessional behaviour the struggle is heating up, and unlike the usual tale in the NHS, there seem to be unlimited budgets available to help bust the strike.
We'll try to give more detail about the day of action as local events are set up. In the meantime donations and letters of support are vital to maintain the strike at its current level.
Donations and messages of support can be sent to Manchester Community and Mental Health Unison branch, 70 Manchester Road, Manchester, M21 9UN. Phone 07972 120 451 or email email@example.com. Cheques should be made out to "Unison Manchester Community and Mental Health".
For more information, visit www.reinstate-karen.org
A petition can be downloaded here.