HEALTH WORKERS at UCLH hospitals in London are organising a demonstration on Tuesday of next week to call for more funding for the NHS. It has never been needed more. The Association of Community Health Councils revealed shocking evidence last week about the state of accident and emergency departments. It did a snapshot survey on 20 December last year and found elderly patients with serious illnesses left on trolleys for more than two days. It found patients were forced to lie on the floor because there were no beds-and this was before the flu outbreak in January. This is the tragic result of New Labour's refusal to fund the NHS.
But why hasn't UNISON, the biggest union in the country, organised such a demonstration to fund the NHS? Instead UCLH workers are demonstrating, not only against the Labour government's refusal to fund the NHS, but also against their own union leaders. UNISON leaders have not turned their fire on the government but on the very activists at UCLH who have stood up and fought for the NHS.
They have summoned branch officials Candy Udwin and Dave Carr to a disciplinary hearing on Thursday 10 February, accusing them of breaking union rules. All Candy and Dave are 'guilty' of is fighting against cuts, closures and privatisation. UNISON's witch hunt has played straight into the hands of hospital bosses. UCLH bosses want to smash resistance to PFI. Now UNISON's witch hunt has given them the green light. Just days after UNISON announced the disciplinary hearing, UCLH bosses derecognised Dave Carr as UNISON branch chair.
This victimisation has stunned local health workers, trade unionists and community activists. East End GP Kambiz Boomla says, 'I have known Candy Udwin since the days when she was fighting to save the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in the 1970s. Her record of defending the NHS is unsurpassed. It is totally incomprehensible to me why UNISON should be attacking their best fighters. UNISON should be fighting the Private Finance Initiative scheme at UCLH which will mean fewer beds, declining patient care and worse conditions for staff.'
Local pensioners Mr and Mrs McLean from Great Ormond Street say, in their message of support to UCLH, 'Good luck to Dave and Candy. They have been on many demonstrations to save UCH. 'It is terrible to hear that people whose heart is in the right place may be ousted because their views are no longer fashionable.' Nine local Camden Labour councillors, including the deputy leader of the council, Charlie Hedges, have so far signed up to give their support to the fight to defend Candy and Dave. The accusations against Candy and Dave have sent shock waves through UNISON itself.
The overwhelming majority of those at UNISON's London regional committee last week signed a card in defence of Candy and Dave. They included two members of UNISON's national executive committee, Kevin O'Brien and Chris Connolly (in a personal capacity). Two thirds of union officials at a northern regional council meeting last week also signed a card in support of UCLH. So too did one third of officials and union reps at a similar north west regional meeting. Candy Udwin has now been elected to run as a London Socialist Alliance candidate for the Greater London Authority elections in May. She will be running against New Labour councillor Helen Gordon — UCLH's personnel manager.
LOCAL UNISON branches in four central London colleges are joining forces to set up a defence committee for Candy and Dave. Support so far includes Tony Benn MP and Geoff Martin, London region convenor of UNISON. Some 90 branch officers of the Communication Workers Union, who were attending a telecoms conference, also signed up to support Candy and Dave, including six members of the CWU national executive. Everyone who wants to see a fight for more NHS funding should get involved in the campaign.
Circulate the card produced by UCLH staff. Set up a defence committee in your area.
Send cards and messages of support to UCLH UNISON, c/o Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer Street, London W1N 8AA. Fax/phone 020 7323 1162.
Send messages of condemnation to UNISON, 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9AJ. Fax 020 7387 6692.
Fund the NHS — hands off Candy Udwin and Dave Carr
TUESDAY 8 FEBRUARY 5.30pm Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer Street, London W1 (Goodge Street Tube)