Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Worrying news of electoral malpractice - let's hope this is addressed appropriately!



Like many readers of this blog I have devoted decades to voluntary service to the trade union movement because I believe in collectivism and socialism. I have worked in that time with some paid officials who, as professionals, have shown similar commitment and have been (and are) an asset to our movement.
However, there are (or certainly should be) different roles between lay members and paid officials – particularly in a trade union like UNISON, where our Rule Book says that we are a “member-led” Union.
This shocking information published online reveals a scandalous breach of trust on the part of senior officials of UNISON in our Greater London Region. It links to an audio file which, having listened to it I am certain is plainly a recording of a meeting of officials at our Regional Office (of which there is also a transcript).
It is clear from the recording and transcript that this meeting of UNISON paid officials included a discussion about how to campaign for Dave Prentis as a candidate in the election for General Secretary.   It is equally clear that this was a discussion about how staff should use their time, for which they are paid by UNISON, to carry out such campaigning.
During the meeting, the Regional Secretary, Linda Perks, reports to paid officials the thanks of the General Secretary, Dave Prentis, for the number of nominations from branches in the Greater London Region. This clearly seeks to implicate the General Secretary in this misuse of staffing resources.
Linda Perks and Dave Prentis are both members of UNISON. On the basis of the evidence in the recording and transcript, they may both be responsible for breaching the General Secretary election procedure agreed by the National Executive Council under Rules D7, E3.3 and Schedule C.7. The election procedure clearly states that UNISON resources should not be used to support any particular candidate. 
Paragraph 51 provides,
            "Our funds, property or resources cannot be used to support campaigning for any particular candidate, except in the following circumstances.
             a)        If a nominating body wants to tell their members about the nominations                               through their established methods of communication (for example, branch                          newsletters and social media resources)
            b)         To hold meetings (as explained in these procedures)
            c)         To provide candidates with a copy of the contact details for all nominating               bodies (as explained in these procedures). 
            ‘Funds, property or resources’ include (but are not limited to):
            funds
            secretarial, administrative and office facilities
            electronic information 
            UNISON social media
            union stationery
            phone calls and text messages at the union’s expense
            the paid time of branch staff, and
            expenses for travel and subsistence (food and drink)."
There is no doubt that 'funds, property and resources' includes the paid time of UNISON officials and their access, through their capacity as officials, to the officers and membership of the Union.
Furthermore the use of resources for purposes outside and, indeed, specifically contrary to the rules and procedures of the Union constitutes misappropriation of UNISON resources.
It would appear that these officials, as UNISON members, have acted in breach of UNISON Rules. Your blogger has complained to the Union about this and it is with regret, and only in the absence of sufficiently prompt confirmation of appropriate action, that I am publishing this blog post in the interests of openness and transparency – and so that UNISON members should know what is being done, with our resources in breach of our Rules. I want to stress that I do have confidence in the colleagues with whom I have raised this to take appropriate action, but that in all the circumstances I believe that it is important to be open about this problem.
UNISON is a great trade union, with many thousands of dedicated activists and hundreds of diligent staff and officials. Although we have faced significant defeats and setbacks in recent years, and have let ourselves and our members down in some recent disputes, we remain – as the trade union for public servants in this country – the only guarantee of dignity and justice in the workplace for those of us who devote our lives to the good of our society.
As angry as I am at the blatant abuse of the resources of our trade union by the Regional Management Team in the Greater London Regional Office of UNISON, I urge all UNISON members to utilise the democratic structures of our trade union in the first instance.
Any UNISON member has the right to complain to the Union about the conduct disclosed in the links above. You can contact the Member Liaison Unit at elections@unison.co.uk. You can also put a motion to your next Branch Meeting to go to Conference or your Regional Council.
In the immediate term, since this is relevant to the General Secretary election, complaints can be made to unison@electoralreform.co.uk. The deadline for such complaints is 5pm on Friday 11 December 2015.
UNISON must be reclaimed for lay members and for democracy.

Update at lunchtime on Wednesday 2 December - I understand that an investigation is now underway and shall refrain from further comment on this blog about the matters under investigation. UNISON has an opportunity now to deal with matters appropriately.

Update on 23 December - having just now responded to a comment on this post I have taken the opportunity to correct the wording above. There have been considerable further developments since this post was written (not least the declaration of the result of the General Secretary election) but also the internal investigation (which is now  underway). It would be wrong to presume the guilt of any party but, in particular, I do not assume that the General Secretary himself was personally aware of anything just because the person speaking in the recording of the meeting sought to imply that he was. I have not made that assumption in calling for a thorough investigation of evidence which is certainly of concern, and I would not encourage anyone else to make that assumption.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The term "Rogue Regional Secretary" somehow implies this is the act of one individual gone off the rails and not part of a systemic corruption of the official machine.

Clearly there is no chance of this election being fair and open, Prentis should stand down now and allow the members the freedom to choose their own Gen Sec. Good luck with that!

The only honest statement in the whole thing is that none of the other candidates would be able to lead the union. True, not because of lack of ability, but because they would have this cabal of wreckers at their back.

Anonymous said...

In the recording and transcript Linda Perks says, “I have said before that not one of the others is capable of running the union quite frankly.” This is a clear indication that there has been other meeting or a similar ilk where she has expressed this belief to some or all of this group of paid officials.

This meeting is just the tip of a very dirty iceberg.

Anonymous said...

It's been going on for years. I've witnessed a regional organiser giving a list of who to vote for at regional council. It's become the type of employer it was created to fight.

Anonymous said...

Two members of our branch said they felt bullied into voting a certain way by the regional organiser who can be heard on the audio tape. Another member was harassed at NDC about a vote.

Anonymous said...

The pure disregard exhibited towards lay members has to change. We are their employer and they need to remember that and start treating us with respect rather than the current attitude that we are expendable and irrelevant. I truly hope other regions are not this corrup - I don't use this word lightly.

Anonymous said...

Who would someone contact with information confidentially.

Jon Rogers said...

Email me and I can put you in touch with the investigation?

Anonymous said...

How can UNISON have a General Secretary responsible for such malpractice remain in office?

Jon Rogers said...

I would not assume that the General Secretary was personally aware of what was being said and done at this meeting just because the speaker at the meeting seeks to implicate him.