Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The future for Regional supervision?

One of the more controversial topics about which I have blogged here in recent years has been the putting of UNISON branches into Regional Supervision. Occasionally I have even lost my temper (for example when the Bromley and Greenwich branches were taken into Regional Supervision in 2010).
The NEC is still due to see a report on those cases when pending litigation has been resolved, and my purpose in writing this brief post now is not to comment on any particular case, but to draw to the attention of readers who may not have seen it the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in the case of UNISON –v- Street.
UNISON won the appeal, in the sense that an earlier decision of the Certification Officer that the UNISON had acted unlawfully in not holding an Annual General Meeting for a branch under Regional supervision was overturned. However the case has been sent back to the Certification Officer to reconsider based on guidance from the EAT.
In a nutshell, the EAT have made the common sense ruling that the UNISON NEC must have the power to take a branch into Regional supervision where the branch is dysfunctional but that whether in so doing any of the other Rules of the Union (such as the requirement to hold an Annual General Meeting) should be suspended depends upon whether this is both necessaryand proportionate. By implication, the same test should be applied to the taking of branches into regional supervision in the first place.
We wait to see what Certification Officer will make of the facts of the Street case on this basis, and also for the final report into Bromley and Greenwich. However, the EAT guidance ought to ensure that the extreme step of Regional supervision is taken only where truly necessary.
Facing the challenge of organising the fragmented workforce, UNISON needs its branches and branch activists. The Union cannot now be run, if it ever could, from the Centre or the Regions alone.

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