Lee Rock (right): solidarity needed

Lee Rock: Campaign against victimisation takes off

Tina Becker reports on the campaign to reinstate Sheffield PCS union rep and Weekly Worker supporter Lee Rock

The campaign against the dismissal of trade union activist Lee Rock is gathering pace. Comrade Lee was sacked by the Department for work and pensions after 27 years as a union activist in the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), officially on the grounds of “attendance management”, which is officialdom-speak for sickness absence. In September 2012, he hit his so-called “consideration point” of 11 days’ sickness – and the DWP “considered” that this would be an ideal time to get rid of one of the most effective and outspoken militants in the DWP (where the PCS is representing over 70,000 members).

It has been clear from the outset – and is becoming ever clearer – that this dismissal is not just an overly bureaucratic response to an individual’s sickness absence, but part and parcel of the political attack on the trade unions, especially in the public sector.

At the recent regional conference of Unite the Resistance in Sheffield, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka highlighted Lee’s case, condemning the “trumped up” charges. He has ensured Lee of the support of the national union and will demand his reinstatement “at the highest level”. The DWP group secretary will be forwarding to the national disputes committee the submission for the ballot to take strike action, initially in Sheffield contact centre, where Lee worked.

Comrade Rock has been continuing in his post as local assistant branch secretary and still represents local PCS members – but management is making it as hard for him as possible. For the first meeting of the branch’s AGM after his dismissal, Lee had to be escorted onto the premises by a security guard – and was picked up afterwards, much to the embarrassment of the guard. He has since been banned from his former workplace, which means that even for official hearings, Lee, the workers he represents, the managers and the minute taker have to traipse miles across city centre to meet in a different DWP building. The whole branch executive committee, too, has been forced to gather at a different location for its monthly meetings.

Meanwhile, members of Lee’s local Sheffield branch have been collecting hundreds of signatures demanding his reinstatement and calling for strike action. 18 PCS branches have submitted similar emergency motions to the DWP group conference in May – there would have been even more, had most branch AGMs not already taken place a week or two before his dismissal on February 23. This wide support ensures that the demand for strike action will be heard in front of hundreds of delegates in Brighton. Management might have thought for a few days that they’ve seen the last of Lee – but clearly, he continues to be a thorn in their side.

Other trade union branches, individuals or trades councils who wish to send a message of solidarity to Lee or the branch can email it to the branch secretary at tombishell@yahoo.co.uk.