Thursday, June 02, 2016
The dirty dozen?
I am one of twelve complainants who have brought complaints to the Certification Officer concerning the conduct of the recent election for General Secretary of my trade union, UNISON. Given the volume of complaints, and the sensible decision of the Certification Officer to hear the complaints together, it will be some months before this matter is concluded.
I may comment here as appropriate about the substance of this issue in due course but I want now to touch upon the question of whether one should ever make such a complaint.
For some on the left it is anathema to complain to an organ of the (capitalist) state concerning the affairs of a trade union. It certainly isn’t something I ever expected to find myself doing.
As a member of UNISON’s National Executive Council I was not able, at our last meeting, to pursue issues about the General Secretary election and this left me with no option but to pursue those issues with a Certification Officer complaint.
However, I won’t be apologising to anyone who alleges that the submission of such a complaint amounts to using the “Tory anti-union laws”.
The Certification Officer is a government official. The position of the Certification Officer was established in 1975 by a Labour government. The right of trade union members to complain to the Certification Officer of a breach of trade union rules (which I am one of those exercising) was introduced by a Labour Government in the Employment Relations Act 1999.
The rights which those of us complaining about the UNISON General Secretary election are using are rights given to us by Labour Governments. It is certainly regrettable that there are circumstances in which trade unionists cannot rely upon the democratic structures of our own trade union to regulate compliance with our rules – but it is no good simply regretting this when it stares you in the face (as is suggested by a new entrant to the online world).
I should add that I make no allegation of wrongdoing against our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, and stand by my apology to him on this point.