Tuesday, February 02, 2016
The General Secretary election and the complaint to the Certification Officer
As your blogger was dragging myself back to work following a particularly nasty chest infection I received word as follows from an informed source (as they say);
There is a hearing before the Certification Officer on Tuesday 1st March to consider a complaint made by Keith Henderson alleging that the GMB misapplied laws governing the General Secretary election in the GMB that prevented him or any other ordinary member of the union standing in that election. An election where only 4.5% of the members voted and where the victor won with the backing of 2.4% of GMB members.
The specifics of the complaints to be heard are as follows;
1. On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47(1) of the 1992 Act in that the Union's by-law 13 relating to the Election of General Secretary and Treasurer 2015 prevented Mr Henderson, and other lay members of the Union, from contacting branches to advise them of their intention to stand as a candidate in the election for the post of General Secretary and Treasurer.
2. On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47(1) of the 1992 Act in that the nomination period of 8 weeks was insufficient for intended nominees to gain the required nominations from 30 branches and was insufficient for branches to arrange and hold meetings to decide upon whether to support a given individual's nomination.
3. On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47(1) of the 1992 Act in that the Union's London Central X58 branch was not provided with the necessary papers/information for the election of General Secretary and Treasurer, including the nomination form, until 3 weeks into the nomination period which curtailed the 8 week nomination period thereby leaving insufficient time to write to branch members, arrange a suitable date for a nomination meeting, arrange a venue and give reasonable notice to members of such a meeting.
4. On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47(1) of the 1992 Act in that the Union did not provide sufficient information that the election of General Secretary and Treasure was being held and, in particular, most members did not know of the 22 June to 17 August 2015 nomination period as no written notification to the membership was allowed and there was no notification on the Union's website.
5. On or around 30 June 2015 GMB breached the Union's by-law 13 in that Regional Secretaries Tim Roache, Paul McCarthy and Paul Maloney and National Secretary Gary Smith contacted the Morning Star newspaper directly or indirectly which published an article stating that these Union officials were seeking nominations from GMB branches for the election of General Secretary and Treasurer. This article constituted the issuing, on behalf of candidates in the election, of a text, circular or other material (whether written, typed or printed and whether communicated electronically or otherwise), other than an election address according with by-laws 6 to 12 inclusive, and so was prohibited under by-law 13.
You can read more about the background to this story from the Labour Representation Committee online at http://l-r-c.org.uk/news/story/support-keith-henderson/.
As an interested observer from outside the GMB (and one who, like any UNISON activist in local government, has a pressing interest in how the GMB fights for, and is guided by, its members) it does seem bizarre that, having set a minimum number of branch nominations for a candidate to stand as General Secretary, a trade union would not then facilitate communication between would-be candidates and branches.
This blog has never, and will never, pull punches when making justified criticism of my own trade union - but UNISON's election procedures do not erect such an obstacle course in the way of those challenging for office.
It is a matter of regret whenever an activist takes a complaint about their trade union to a Government official - but it is a matter of greater regret that a socialist such as Keith Henderson should be left with no other option for redress.
If we one day want to win the argument against the ever more onerous regulation of our movement by the state we will need to develop democratic means to resolve such disputes transparently in front of (and in a way that is genuinely accountable to) our members.