Monday, December 07, 2015
The loneliness of the long distance Returning Officer
Trade unions are required by one of the many laws which regulate our movement to appoint an independent returning officer to oversee various of the statutory ballots which those same laws dictate (such as the election for General Secretary, voting in which closed last week).
UNISON has been using the same returning officer for some time, and the link above shows the problems with which a returning officer can have to deal. In that case the Certification Officer found that the Union had breached one of the many detailed legal provisions governing a Union election (in that case for the National Executive Council) (NEC).
The Certification Officer in that case decided (not unreasonably in all the circumstances) not to order that the election be re-run, though that is something which is in the power both of the returning officer and of the Certification Officer.
In that case though the Certification Officer was critical of the returning officer for having stated that they were satisfied with all the matters that the relevant bit of the law (Section 52 subsection 2 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992) required them to be satisfied when in fact they knew, as the Union admitted, that there had been a breach (in that particular case) of Section 48 subsection 4.
In a fairly damning assessment the Certification Officer described the statement from the returning officer as "at best misleading" and found that the statement that the returning officer was satisfied that the election had satisfied all of the matters in Section 52 subsection 2 "undermined the credibility" of the returning officer's report.
The same returning officer is now wading through a large number of complaints (so he tells me) concerning the recently concluded ballot to elect a General Secretary. No doubt he will have the words of the Certification Officer ten years ago in his mind should he find compelling evidence of (say) breaches of Section 51 subsection (3)(a) (for example).
It's a tough job but somebody has to do it...
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.