Writes Derren Hayes
Manchester mental health staff are to strike over the sacking of a union representative who spoke out against cuts at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust.
Karen Reissmann, a community psychiatric nurse at the trust and chair of its Unison branch, was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct after a six-day hearing chaired by the trust’s chief executive.
The trust refused to comment on the nature of her disciplinary last week, but Reissmann said it related to her speaking to the press while she was suspended for expressing concerns over changes to mental health services in Manchester.
Speaking to Community Care after the verdict, Reissmann said: “I’m shocked that in 2007 a union representative who works in the health service can be sacked for speaking out against government policy. I have serious concerns about what this means for patients and staff.”
But trust chief executive Sheila Foley said: “All the way through this matter the trust has followed the correct processes. I do believe this is the right decision to take and is being taken in the best interest of the trust and the patients we care for.”
Over the past three months, hundreds of trust staff have held a series of walk-outs in protest at Reissmann’s treatment.
Despite the verdict Reissmann remained defiant. “We intend to go on fighting. I hope it [a strike] would make the trust reassess its decision. They have to ask themselves why it is I maintain such high support from my colleagues.”
Reissmann was suspended in July after accusing the trust of not meaningfully engaging the union’s concerns over the implementation of its wholesale restructure of community services, involving the creation of new assertive outreach, early intervention and crisis resolution teams.
Unison said 150 members of the branch would start an indefinite strike on November 8 and confirmed a branch wide one day strike in a fortnights’ time in support of Reissman.
A Unison spokesperson called Reissman’s sacking “an absolute disgrace” and said the union would fight for her reinstatement.