Wednesday, December 16, 2015
When a General Secretary election had to be overturned...
The above link notes the victory, in the 2003 election for General Secretary of our sister union, GMB, of Kevin Curran. He had scored a decisive victory over his opponent, Paul Kenny.
The following year allegations of malpractice in the election were reported in the press (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/dec/20/uk.tradeunions). In particular it was reported and alleged that Mr Curran had had a GMB Regional Secretary campaigning inappropriately on his behalf in breach of the Rules of that Union.
The GMB Central Executive Council took this matter seriously, suspending the General Secretary and appointing an independent investigation, accountable to the Union (http://www.lrdpublications.org.uk/publications.php?pub=LR&iss=1021&id=id129300).
Whilst the rights and wrongs of the situation may never be known to those of us on the outside (because the former General Secretary eventually signed a compromise agreement with the Union) it is worth noting that the approach of the GMB CEC withstood challenges taken to the Certification Officer.
It is also worth noting that the 2003 election result stood at the time, having been signed off by the Returning Officer, and that Mr Curran took office - and held office until his suspension in 2005.
The particular circumstances of the GMB General Secretary election in 2003 plainly differ in many important respects from the circumstances of the UNISON General Secretary election in 2015, but that doesn't mean that there are no lessons to be drawn.
First, where there is contention about an election this is not brought to an end by the declaration of the result.
Secondly, a trade union can survive the suspension - and independent investigation - of a General Secretary (even one who has recently won a convincing victory in a contested election).
Thirdly, a robust approach by a trade union to the investigation of alleged malpractice can be an effective defence to subsequent complaints to the Certification Officer (the Government official with the power to compel trade unions to rerun elections).
Sadly, even the recent history of our movement is now so little studied and discussed that it is questionable whether any of these three lessons have been learned within my own trade union, UNISON.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.