Stop the Pandemic Victimisation of Union Reps: Defend Louise Lewis Now!

Yesterday, on January 20, I moved the following motion at my union branch:

Defend Louise Lewis

Leicester City UNISON branch notes with complete dismay and anger the suspension of Louise Lewis, NEU representative at North Huddersfield Trust School and also Vice President of Kirklees NEU. Louise has been following union advice and government guidelines in trying to secure proper and timely risk assessments from the school in relation to Covid. On 1st October, she was escorted from the school building, having been told the school had lost all confidence in her and she now faces disciplinary action. This was on the day of a spot check visit by the Health and Safety Executive. We believe Louise has been targeted for legitimate trade union activity which included raising questions about safety during the current pandemic.

This branch recognises that this action is a direct attack on union organisation, as well as basic health and safety requirements, at a time of acute national crisis. This branch reaffirms its solidarity with Kirklees NEU and Louise and agrees to do whatever it can to support her immediate reinstatement and dropping of all charges.

To that end, we agree to the following:

1. To send a message of protest to the Governing Body of the school and to the Local Authority, demanding the reinstatement of Louise and for an immediate independent investigation into the actions of the headteacher

2. To send a message of solidarity to Kirklees NEU

3. To send a letter of protest to the headteacher demanding he immediately reinstate Louise

4. To pursue any other solidarity action in support of Louise, including publicising her case, circulating the petitions to all local members, and asking for support from our national unions and wider

Unfortunately, members of the leadership of my Unison branch said they could not support the motion if it included writing to the headteacher and Local Authority demanding Louise’s reinstatement (some of them citing strange legal concerns). I said I was very reluctant to change the motion, but I suggested that the branch might vote on it with actions (1) and (3) omitted from the motion. The final motion thus passed with the following two actions:

  1. To send a message of solidarity to Kirklees NEU
  2. To pursue any other solidarity action in support of Louise, including publicising her case, circulating the petition to all local members, and asking for support from our national unions and wider

The motion was then forwarded to the Leicester and Districts Trades Union Council which immediately passed the motion earlier tonight (January 21).

Further Action

On Wednesday 27th January there will be an important rally to defend victimised National Education Union reps like John Boken and Louise Lewis! The NEU played a key role, along with UNISON, in the recent education workers rebellion against unsafe schools – reps shouldn’t be victimised for standing up for their members’ safety!

Speakers Include:
Daniel Kebede – Senior Vice-president NEU
Vik Chechi-Ribeiro – Black Members Rep NEU National Executive Council
Louise Cuffaro – Secretary Newham NEU
John Boken – Victimised NEU Rep Shropshire NEU
Hazel Danson – Secretary Kirklees NEU

Wednesday 27th January at 6.30 – click “going” and invite friends: https://fb.me/e/10xWYX5YL

Also please sign and share this open letter in support of them John and Louise: www.tinyurl.com/tuvictimisation

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