Sunday, May 24, 2015
Nice work if you can get it?
Trade unionists are often complaining about the number of jobs which have been eliminated as a result of the savage spending cuts of the previous Government, now set to be accelerated.
So we should probably celebrate the creation of some useful new opportunities for gainful employment - for "independent assurers" who are now required to audit our compliance with our statutory duty to maintain an accurate membership register.
UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) is proposing a rule amendment to write into our Rule Book the requirement to appoint such an assurer - because we are required to do so by Part Three of the Lobbying Act.
Under the Membership Audit Certificate (Qualified Independent Person) (Specified Conditions) Order 2015 the independent assurer must be a solicitor, an auditor or a scrutineer (authorised to act as an external scrutineer of trade union ballots).
The subscription income collected from low paid workers can therefore now be spent paying a solicitor, an auditor or scrutineer to carry out a wholly unnecessary audit of our membership records.
We'll have to be careful if we want to use decent firms which recognise trade unions, since section 24ZB(4)(b) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (inserted by the Lobbying Act) prohibits from acting as an assurer anyone who employs "an officer" of the trade union or any of its branches.
Since an "officer" of the union could include a shop steward, unions who might seek to unionise solicitors clerks, or the employees of auditors will have to tread carefully.
Since trade unions have a vested interest in having accurate membership records in any case, and since the previous Government never really bothered to justify the imposition of the new auditing requirements, it's clear that the essential purpose of Part Three of the Lobbying Act is to put trip wires in the way of unions seeking to take industrial action - and to encourage vexatious litigation from the right-wing fringe.
This will impel diligence on the part of assurers, and therefore - over time - the administrative burden of the regular membership audit will tend to increase.
Whether or not our foes will need to tie us in knots with this requirement now that they have a Government free to legislate openly against trade unions, we will nevertheless be paying for our Membership Audit Certificates for years to come.
Anyone would think, given the vigour with which the legislature seeks to regulate and control us, that the trade unions posed a threat to the rule of, by and for the 1%...
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.