Thursday, March 23, 2017
To avoid legal jeopardy do not read this blog post.
One of the things I will miss about UNISON is the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) for National Delegate Conference or, more precisely, some of the decisions which it takes on legal advice.
Decisions of the SOC cannot be overturned even by National Delegate Conference, and cannot be challenged to the Certification Officer (which we all know because it was tried).
Although the SOC, which consists of twelve lay members elected from the Regions and three members of the National Executive Council (NEC), are invariably an engaging bunch ever willing to listen to appeals from branches about motions ruled out of order (and occasionally to change their mind) there is no effective right of appeal when a proposed Amendment to Rule is ruled out of order.
This is because the Rules themselves (Rule N.3) require that any Amendment to Rule must appear in the Preliminary Agenda for Conference, and once that hasn’t happened nothing can be done for another year (even if the SOC were to consider that they had made a mistake).
This year the ever enthusiastic Lambeth branch submitted four Rule Amendments all of which have been ruled out of order on the grounds that they could bring the Union into legal jeopardy, and the text of all four Rule Amendments has not been printed (presumably on legal advice) as you can see from the Preliminary Agenda.
What can be the dangerous words which should not even be printed?
Well, if you are a reader of a nervous disposition I urge you to look away now, as I am about to tell you.
This is your final warning to look away.
All four proposed Rule Amendments addressed the topical question of the role of UNISON employees as UNISON members and their rights to vote and campaign in internal UNISON elections.
The first proposed Amendment simply read “Delete Rule C.2.9” whilst the second, which would only have been relevant if the first were ruled out of order (or not carried) said “In Rule C.188.8.131.52 delete all after the word “vote” and replace with “in any internal union elections including for the post of General Secretary.””
The third proposed Amendment was to add a new paragraph 8 to Schedule C as follows;
“8 The National Executive Council shall ensure that employees of the Union do not campaign in any capacity for or against any candidate in an election to which this Schedule applies.”
The fourth, an alternative to the third, suggested a different new paragraph 8 to Schedule C as follows;
“8 The National Executive Council shall ensure that employees of the Union do not use any resources of the Union, including information obtained in the course of their employment, to campaign for or against any candidate in an election to which this Schedule applies.”
Having read these dangerous words I fear there is now no going back and I suggest you seek immediate legal advice about the legal jeopardy which you may now be in. Alternatively you could hand yourself in at a Police Station or at any UNISON Regional Office...
UNISON may, however, find that it is not possible to avoid a debate about the future conduct of members who are employees in internal elections given evidence in the public domain about the past conduct of some such employees.