Left-wing Unison president Paul Holmes was sacked from his job at Kirklees Council earlier this year, following a two-year witch-hunt. This has sparked a grassroots movement of resistance. Activists must escalate the struggle to defend Paul.
Things have heated up since Kirklees Council disgracefully sacked Unison president Paul Holmes earlier this month. The left have come out fighting, rallying support amongst rank-and-file union members.
On the Saturday immediately following this announcement, around 180 activists tuned in to an online rally to hear Paul and others speak out against the council’s ruling. The mood of anger is building within the ranks of Unison.
As part of their defence of Paul Holmes, the left slate on the Unison NEC, gathered around Time for Real Change, have issued an open letter denouncing the council for its actions, which we republish below.
This is a good initial step. And it is encouraging that this open letter is just one aspect of the campaign.
Unison nationally are supporting Paul Holmes’ legal case against victimisation for trade union activities. Meanwhile, Kirklees Unison members have expressed their confidence in Paul and the other suspended branch officers, voting to re-elect them at the branch’s latest AGM.
Messages of support for Paul’s cause have come in from many well-known Labour and trade union figures. Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Fran Heathcote and Mark Serwotka (president and general secretary of the PCS union, respectively), and left-wing filmmaker Ken Loach – amongst others – have added their voices to the campaign.
#JeremyCorbyn adds his support for Paul Holmes, Branch Secretary of Kirklees Unison, National President of Unison and member of the TUC General Council #TimeForRealChange #DefendPaulHolmes #UNISON @jeremycorbyn pic.twitter.com/pE4bNoj2z0
— #TimeForRealChange (@tfrc_unison) February 7, 2022
What is needed now is to build on this momentum, and really turn the screws on Kirklees Council.
An important next step would be to build for a huge in-person rally in Huddersfield, with speakers invited from all across the trade union movement, in order to demonstrate the level of support that Paul holds.
Many Kirklees Unison members will be very angry about what they will see as an attack – not just on Paul Holmes, but on every single one of them.
This rally should serve as the starting point for a general campaign in the local area, and the beginning of a full offensive against this union-busting council.
If the 10,000-plus members of Kirklees Unison were to take industrial action in defence of a comrade who has served as their rep and branch secretary, and as president of the union in their service, this could trigger an almighty earthquake.
This would send a message to Kirklees Council and to all public sector employers, especially in Labour councils: if you try to go after one of us, you’ll end up fighting all of us!
If the council thought they’d won with the sacking of Paul Holmes, then they’re about to have a very nasty awakening. The battle – far from being over – is only just beginning. It must be fought until Paul is reinstated and fully exonerated.
#DefendPaulHolmes update: Calling all comrades across the Labour movement to sign & share our open letter in defence of UNISON National President Paul Holmes ?✊https://t.co/IMCzpxMK9X pic.twitter.com/qwzsEqWA1V
— #TimeForRealChange (@tfrc_unison) February 16, 2022
Open letter from Time for Real Change: Defend Paul Holmes!
We, the undersigned, condemn the decision of Kirklees Council on 2 February 2022 to dismiss Unison National President Paul Holmes.
Paul has been branch secretary of the Kirklees Unison branch for 32 years. Paul has been a council employee for 48 years and a union steward for 46 years. He has a completely unblemished record in his 48 years with the council.
The decision to dismiss him is completely indefensible. It follows him being suspended by the council for two years and two months. The investigation into this issue by a private consultant finished 18 months ago.
Paul will not let this issue rest. He could have retired with 48 years’ service, but he is determined to clear his name and let everyone know the real reasons behind his dismissal.
Unison nationally is supporting an application for interim relief to an employment tribunal on the grounds of trade union victimisation. There is no substance to the allegations against Paul, and he entirely refutes them. This is clearly a case of an employer targeting a leading trade union activist.
We believe that these reasons are that Paul undertook the activities of an independent trade union (i.e. Unison). No trade union can accept that an employer should dismiss a union representative for carrying out their trade union duties and activities.
The decision of Kirklees Council is completely unacceptable from a council that purports to be Labour. This brings shame and disgrace on all the Labour movement.
- To send a message of support and solidarity to Paul Holmes.
- To send a letter of protest to the leader of Kirklees Council, Shabir Pandor (firstname.lastname@example.org) calling upon him to reinstate Paul Holmes.
- To send a letter of protest to the chief executive of Kirklees Council, Jacqui Gedman (email@example.com) calling upon her to reinstate Paul Holmes.
- Raise the matter further within our trade union branches and constituency Labour parties.
Please show your support for Paul by adding your signature to our open letter.