Solidarity with Unison President, Paul Holmes

Paul Holmes is the left candidate who was elected as National President of Unison in 2021. At the time of Paul’s election, he was suspended both by his employer and by Unison.

After a lengthy and drawn out investigation over 2 years, Paul was finally reinstated by Unison and allowed to take up his elected role, but then last week, his employer, Kirklees Council made the decision to dismiss him, also following a dragged out investigation. Not only is Paul the elected president of Unison and a member of the TUC general council, he is branch secretary of the 10,000 member strong Kirklees Unison. It would clearly benefit the employer to remove him from his role, both in his fighting trade union branch, and at a national level.

On Saturday, I attended a quickly set up online rally held by Time For Real Change, to offer solidarity and support to Paul, and to those campaigning for his reinstatement. Hundreds were there to offer solidarity and I was proud to speak alongside John McDonnell, MP, and John Dunn from Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, to offer left activists in Unison our support.
Solidarity at a time like this is really important. We need to make sure that as trade unionists, we understand the importance of that, and not allow the arguments of those who would side with a hostile employer to see Paul sacked, to dominate.

We welcomed the victory of Paul and a majority left NEC within Unison in 2021, because we recognise that as activists and socialists, that election benefits the whole movement. The allegations against him are, at best, vague and recent press coverage has not made matters any clearer. Any member has the right to complain, and If there are complaints against Paul, then we are in favour of a proper, speedy, impartial investigation. What we are not in favour of is a 2 year drawn out suspension, either by Unison or by his employer, and we welcome the fact that Unison, having reinstated Paul, is now providing support to him. The pressure must continue to give Paul all of the support that he needs.

For me, this is straightforward. Paul is a fellow national president on the left, it’s a simple matter of offering, and demonstrating, solidarity. I support Paul, as a trade unionist and a socialist, following the simple premise that an injury to one is an injury to all, and because as trade unionists, we understand that every trade unionist will be stronger if Paul is successful in defending his job, and every activist will be weakened if we allow this to go unchallenged.

We need to do all we can across the movement to stand together and right this wrong to a fellow trade unionist. Solidarity with Paul Holmes.

Fran Heathcote