Unison backed in fight to lift `political gags'

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The Independent Online
Britain's biggest union has won a key victory in Europe in its fight to remove "political gags" on local government officers, writes Barrie Clement.

The European Commission of Human Rights decided the British government has a case to answer over its prevention of political activity by up to 30,000 local-authority employees.

Unison, the public service union, now intends to proceed with its action at the European Court of Human Rights. It is taking the case on behalf of itself and four members, arguing that the gagging clauses in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 infringed workers' rights under the European Convention on Freedom of Expression and Assembly. The four named in the proposed litigation are: Mobin Ahmed, a solicitor at Hackney council; Ray Bentley, of the corporate policy unit, Plymouth council; David Braugh, of the committee services department at Hillingdon council, London, and Dennis Perrin, a surveyor with Devon County Council. Unison initially pursued the case through domestic courts.

Unison says local-government officers on more than pounds 25,000 a year and in "politically sensitive" posts are prevented from "doing or saying anything in print or orally that might give the impression that they are advocating support for a political party".