Union activist threatened with redundancy as management propose to appoint union convenor!

Zena Dodgson, the elected Trade Union Facilitator (TUF) for staff at East Surrey, Crawley and Horsham hospitals, has been threatened with dismissal by Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust. Zena is also the elected Secretary of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Branch of Unison, but would be unable to continue in this role unless employed by the Trust. She was elected to the TUF post by the trade unions in 2005 and has been re-elected every year since by her union colleagues.

The Trust has unilaterally decided to make Zena’s elected post redundant and replace it with an appointed Trade Union ‘Convenor’ role at the end of 2009. She has been issued with an ‘at risk’ notice. The management want to have the ‘new’ post appointed by a panel which will include them! The union side is opposing this and defending their right to elect their officers. The Trust in the past had a management appointed staff side coordinator and it took a four year effort to end this arrangement.


Zena is obviously seen as an obstacle to the plans of the Trust. Along with her Union colleagues at the Trust, she strongly opposed the ‘reconfiguration’ of Crawley hospital, which involved the downgrading of some services.


The decision to dismiss Zena appears to be part of SASH management’s effort to turn it into a Foundation Trust, allowing it to be run as a business in the health care ‘market’. In the Marketing and Communications Strategy Update presented by Andrew Hines, former Director of Corporate Services and Facilities, to the SASH board meeting on September 24, 2009, he wrote:


If the Trust is to be effective in the future as a Foundation Trust, it needs to develop a mature approach to marketing.”


The staff have started a petition to defend their elected Trade Union Facilitator. Zena’s union, Unison, has lodged an appeal against her dismissal, which was scheduled to be heard on Monday, 23rd November. Management have now postponed this and the union is awaiting a further date.


All supporters of the NHS should oppose this attack on Trade Union democracy. Demand that the management withdraw the threat hanging over Zena and that they accept the principle that it is for the trades unions to decide themselves who their representatives are and not a prerogative of management.


The Chief Executive of Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust is Mrs Gail Wannell.

Email her at: gail.wannell@sash.nhs.uk

Send letters of protest to her at:

Maple House, East Surrey Hospital, Canada Avenue, Redhill, RH1 5RH.