Union warned over pro-Palestine leaflets at Southend Civic Centre

A union has been banned from handing out pro-Palestinian leaflets in Southend’s Civic Centre, it has been revealed.

Southend Council received complaints after Unison was spotted handed out “Palestine Solidarity Campaign” leaflets calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The leaflets claimed the Gaza Strip had been “subjected to brutal violence for decades” which had resulted in an “apartheid” against Palestinians.

They went on to accuse the British Government of being “complicit in these crimes”.

Leaflet handed out at the Civic Centre

The union has consent from the council to have a stall on its premises when it needs to promote its services but the authority says it was unaware of the nature of the material being promoted.

A spokesperson for Southend City Council, said: “We are aware of complaints that have been made. While the council appreciates Unison’s work to promote their services and staff welfare activities, the material being distributed was not sanctioned by the council and does not accord with our standard policies for the use of civic centre space.

“We have raised this with Unison and asked that this activity within council premises ceases.”

The union was unapologetic for its support of the Palestinian campaign.

A spokesperson said: “Unison supports calls for an immediate ceasefire to bring an end to the continuing humanitarian crisis in Palestine and Israel.

“We condemn Hamas’s brutal attacks on Israeli citizens and the indiscriminate bombing and collective punishment of the people of Gaza.”

The spokesperson added: “Nationally, Unison has donated £10,000 to Medical Aid for Palestine and the Red Cross, helping the humanitarian effort in Palestine and Israel, and has encouraged local branches to do the same.”

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal Ward, said the civic centre was not an appropriate place to distribute such material.

He said: “I completely support Unison having a stall. I think it’s an incredibly important part of their activities as a trade union at the council. That being said, I do think they should be using it for trade union purposes rather than others.

“Everyone wants to see lasting peace in the Middle East but I’m not sure that Unison handing out inflammatory-worded leaflets at the civic centre is the way to go about that.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter