Friday, February 19, 2016
The long awaited report of the Returning Officer
Today, UNISON has published on our website the Returning Officer’s report in relation to the recently concluded General Secretary election, together with an Appendix summarising the complaints received and the earlier report of the Independent Scrutineer.
Even I wouldn’t claim the timing of the publication of the report (which is dated 18 February) had anything to do with the last thing I said about this – a significant number of people had been waiting for this report (and chasing it intermittently) for some time.
It would be unwise to rush to judgement on a report which has been so long in the writing. The Returning Officer received a total of 157 complaints by the deadline of 5pm on 11 December (fewer than a couple of dozen of which were submitted by your humble blogger).
Some of the complaints (including a large majority of those fewer than a couple of dozen) have been held to be valid, which raises questions for UNISON as to how to respond to these findings (and only subsequently raises questions for complainants as to the adequacy of any such response). Other complaints have been found to be invalid (which raises a question for complainants about whether to accept or challenge that finding).
Still other complaints (including 83 complaints arising from “a recording and transcript of a meeting of UNISON staff that took place at the Greater London UNISON offices at 2pm on 21 October 2015”) remain under investigation, but the Returning Officer has concluded that, whatever the outcome of those investigations that there is no reason to suppose that the conduct complained of made a material difference to the outcome of the election.
In fact, figures presented in the report of the Returning Officer show that the vote for the successful candidate in Greater London was lower, as a percentage of the votes cast, than in all but one of the other Regions. I won’t comment on the detail of matters under investigation within UNISON but I think that a general observation (unrelated to any particular case) that the inappropriateness of a campaigning activity is no guarantee of its efficacy is probably one that can safely be made.
I add (in case anyone is any doubt about my views on this matter, which I think have been made fairly clear) that the Returning Officer, in respect of the Greater London meeting “is satisfied that there is no evidence that Dave Prentis requested nor had knowledge of the alleged actions of UNISON staff ”. Indeed, the Returning Officer “was presented with no evidence that suggests that any candidates were directly involved in, or had knowledge of any of the activities that were the subject of the complaints.”
In these circumstances all those of us who care about the future of UNISON and the interests of our members need to take a little time to consider what further should be done.
Our President has called for us all to “work together now to strengthen our union and speak up for our members. They deserve nothing less than a strong, united union.”
I doubt that this objective can be achieved without some clear recognition of the scale of the problems disclosed in the report of the Returning Officer, but we all need to think further.