Friday, February 17, 2017

Do the Democracy in UNISON guidelines apply to paid staff? (Yes)

As you may imagine, the hearing before the Assistant Certification Officer (ACO) heard a fair bit about some matters not of direct relevance to the specific issues to be decided by the ACO – the extent to which these may (or may not) be relevant to the judgements which the ACO has to make about those specific issues is – predictably – a matter of contention between the parties.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment here at this stage on the issues before the ACO for decision, but I don’t think that self-denying ordinance needs to prevent mention of the evidence offered by a senior UNISON official in December, which was that a meeting of what was to become “Team Dave” took place in Glasgow, in June 2015, in a hotel which had been completely booked (and paid for) by UNISON (and therefore by UNISON members).

I only know about the meeting because of the testimony of that senior official to the ACO.

(I should add that I know of no evidence that the General Secretary himself was aware of or involved in this meeting and make no such allegation.)

I don’t think I will be giving anything away by letting you know that the Union’s lawyers argue that this meeting cannot have been in breach of the election procedures because it too place before those procedures had been agreed.

But other things had been agreed.

There are for example, the Democracy in UNISON guidelines. These include explicit reference to the policy agreed at National Delegate Conference 2001 that “it is not permissible to use members’ subscriptions… …to fund organised factions within the Union… …set up to support particular candidates in elections.”

Paragraph 7 of the guidelines provide that “the principles and objectives contained within this framework will be acknowledged, supported and upheld by all UNISON paid staff.”

So, whatever else happens, or does not happen, before the ACO, and whatever she may decide to do, UNISON will need to determine what action to take concerning the frank admission of a very senior official that they (and others) failed to “acknowledge, support and uphold” (as is required of UNISON paid staff) the policy of our Conference that it is “not permissible’ to “use members’ subscriptions… …to support particular candidates in elections.”


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