Wednesday, November 12, 2014
On the Association of Somerset Inseminators
The website of the Government’s Certification Officer repays the occasional visit. Last month the annual list of registered trade unions was published, giving information about every trade union which has asked to be listed.
Before making any other observation, I wish to pay tribute to the five (yes, 5) members of a small, but doubtless perfectly formed, trade union with a name which must surely have originated as a toungue-twister – The Association of Somerset Inseminators (ASI).
It is reassuring to know that, in an age dominated by giant trade unions often distant from their members, the steady hands of the diligent members of the Association are protected by their General Secretary – and that there can be a trade union with both zero administrative expenses and reserves equivalent to almost one hundred times the annual income.
At the other end of the scale, as at 31 December 2013, UNITEhad 1,405,071 members, of whom 1,134,320 were contributing and UNISONhad (at 31 December 2013) 1,282,560 members, of whom 1,266,750 were contributing (so that whereas UNITE had 122,511 more members than UNISON, UNISON had 132,430 more payingmembers than UNITE).
It would (of course) be unbelievably crass to observe that the sort of competition about size that one sees from time to time between the General Secretaries of the two largest trade unions would probably not impress the experienced members of the Association of Somerset Inseminators. I won’t dwell on this point.
UNITE’s problems with non-contributing members recently contributed to a finding against them by the Certification Officer in a case brought by defeated General Secretary candidate Jerry Hicks. Although most of the complaints brought by Jerry Hicks (relating to the last election in which he came second to Len McCluskey) were dismissed, the Certification Officer found that the Union was failing in its duty to keep its membership records up to date by not lapsing members in arrears of subscriptions.
The Certification Officer also found that the Union had subsequently taken action to resolve this – but the case highlights the dangers posed for our trade unions by the pernicious Part Three of the Lobbying Act – which introduces new requirements for the independent auditing of the accuracy of our membership records.
There can be little doubt that those provisions, had they been in force at the time of the last UNITE General Secretary election, could have been used by any mischievous employer to mount legal challenges to industrial action ballots by that union.
There is still time to respond to consultation on how the Government should implement these provisions – and if Labour politicians could stop squabbling and fight to win the General Election perhaps we won’t have to suffer from them.
Elsewhere in the reports published by the Certification Officer one can find that the 2012 accounts of the Society of Union Employees (SUE) the non-TUC trade union to which a minority of UNISON employees belong, were qualified by their auditors because of the practice of one cheque signatory signing blank cheques. UNISON Branch Officers taken to task for the same undesirable practice may wish to take note!
One can also find out that the pitiable “Social Workers Union” created by a the British Association of Social Workers (and which all members of that Association are eligible to join) still fails to attract the majority of BASW members. UNISON remains the organisation for social workers who want a trade union – though UNISON activists must be alert to the importance of ensuring that our trade union attends to the views and interests of our members.
It is also worth noting that the grandly titled Industrial Workers of the World have 750 members, but none of these are in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or “elsewhere abroad” – giving a peculiarly domestic spin on international syndicalism. In another part of our marvellously diverse trade union movement, the considerably smaller Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE) suffered a 6.8% decline in membership during 2013.
All of which observations probably only go to reinforce the views of some regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Cynic) that my blogging is no more than a non-bovine equivalent to the necessary prerequisite to the work of the admirable ASI.