Unison:Union Democracy on Trial
On Monday a three day public hearing begins into serious allegations over the running of the election campaign that saw Dave Prentis elected general secretary of Britain's largest public sector union, Unison last year.
The Certification Officer has ordered the hearing after every candidate who stood against him filed complaints alleging that union resources were used by officials - who should be neutral during elections - to favour Dave Prentis against them.
The hearing is according to an Acas spokesperson is unprecedented. There are often grievances from individual candidates who feel they have been badly treated and quote the rule book back at the union but in this case every single candidate who stood against Dave Prentis has complained. Nor is it one Left faction against another - whatever political standpoint any of the candidates might have - they appear to be united in complaining that the odds were stacked against them
The four complainants are Heather Wakefield, John Burgess, Jon Rogers and Roger Bannister .
The hearing has an added spice because of the leaking of a covert tape of an union official meeting in Congress House, London which appears to show overzealous support for " Team Dave" as his election campaign was known by officials working in the union's time and using union resources. This has been covered in Private Eye whose reporting seems likely to be referenced in the hearing.
Officially ACAS issued this release: “The applicants allege that, during the election period, the Union breached a number of its rules and a paragraph of the General Secretary 2015 Election Procedures as well as section 49 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. This is the full hearing of the complaints following the preliminary hearing held on 6 October 2016.”
Full details of the proceedings and the issues are listed here.
As people can see it is a detailed series of complaints. It also raises questions around the scrutiny of elections by Electoral Reform Services and the original handling of the complaints and whether the scrutineers were sufficiently independent of the union.
One complaint says:"The Scrutineer/ Electoral Reform Society did not independently investigate and respond to the complaints that were made to it in relation to the General Secretary 2015 Election in accordance with the terms of reference of the election timetable and procedure. Specifically with reference to the complaints arising from the disclosure of the audio tape of the meeting held on 21 October in the UNISON Greater London Regional Office."
It will also test the interpretations by both the union and the complainants about exactly what was said to whom and where and whether this did effect the election.
And it contains allegations that a senior official - "Cliff Williams, Assistant General Secretary, encouraged paid officials across the Union to liaise with employers where the branch might be unsympathetic towards Dave Prentis, to work towards distributing literature in support of Dave Prentis."
And there are allegations against Liz Snape ( who is the wife of Dave Prentis) and a union assistant general secretary, encouraged branches to nominate her husband.
The public hearing is at Fleetbank House,2-5 Salisbury Square LONDON EC4Y 8JX beginning at 10.0am.