Sunday, April 19, 2009

UNISON Development and Organisation Committee Report

I've been variously busy and ill since last Tuesday's meeting of the UNISON NEC Development and Organisation Committee so have only now been able to circulate a report to UNISON branches in Greater London.

This is what I have said;

In addition to dealing with recommendations on Conference items to the NEC the following day, the Committee received reports on branches under Regional Supervision and on recent decisions of the Certification Officer and the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Regional Supervision

The Newham local government branch is the only branch in our Region under regional supervision, which has been the case for the last few months. Unfortunately it was reported to the Committee that in spite of the work of the Regional Office only 30 members out of 3,000 attended the 2009 Annual General Meeting.

The Chair reported that due to complaints having been received about the conduct of the recent elections for branch officers (undertaken whilst the branch has been in regional supervision) an independent investigating officer (external to our Region) has been appointed. Unfortunately, in the mean time, the branch officers have returned to work without any lay replacements so the branch is entirely without elected officers.

It is highly unusual for an officer from another Region to be asked to conduct an investigation into how a Regional Office is supervising a branch in these circumstances.

Certification Officer and Employment Appeal Tribunal Decisions

The Committee received reports of two recent complaints by UNISON members to the Certification Officer, one of which had been withdrawn and in one of which the Certification Officer had dismissed all complaints against the Union.

The report also dealt with the Employment Appeals Tribunal decision in the cases of Yunus Bakhsh and Tony Staunton. In the case of Bakhsh the Union had succeeded in its appeal against an earlier ruling, with the implication that UNISON may now suspend someone from holding office whilst they are under investigation without the need to draw up detailed charges at that stage. This decision (which reflects the practice in many employer’s procedures) was on this particular point and – as the Deputy General Secretary informed those of us who signed an open letter on the case – has no bearing on other issues in the case of Mr Bakhsh.

In the case of Staunton, UNISON’s appeal had been unsuccessful and the EAT had upheld the Certification Officer’s ruling that a member who has been suspended from holding office is not thereby disqualified from being a candidate in an election, since suspension is a precautionary measure and does not imply guilt. The Chair of the Committee advised that he had thought the Union’s position in this case mistaken, which may beg the question why we spent time and effort on an Appeal.

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