Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Rule Book Rogers" demonised and exposed?

Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris National Secretary) will be aware that I am the very soul of modesty and am self-effacing almost to the point of vanishing.

It is therefore very difficult for me to have to share with you certain extracts from the decision of the Assistant Certification Officer issued today to the parties to the litigation (to which I shall post a link once it is published online).

Please therefore treat me gently as I do so.

At paragraph 37 the ACO notes (with perspicacity which I can only applaud) that “Mr Rogers in particular was known as an extremely well-informed expert and erudite scholar of the Union’s rules, whose judgment in this field were highly respected throughout the Union.” (a footnote records my nickname of “Rule Book Rogers”.) (meaning that I have now achieved my purpose in life and having become a footnote to a decision of the Certification Officer will one day be able to die happily, though not perhaps as soon as some in UNISON might wish).

At paragraph 117 the ACO describes this little blog which you are now reading, in relation to a post from October 2015, as “influential” (this is in the context of a discussion of how it was that revised guidance to nominating bodies came to be issued in the middle of an election campaign – a topic to which I will return in a further post because the evidence which came out in the hearing is instructive in understanding the far greater influence exercised by what came to be known as “Team Dave”).

Whether or not this blog influences anyone, the ACO notes, at paragraph 197, the various complaints which I made on 1 December 2015 when I became aware of the meeting which had taken place at Congress House on 21 October 2015 (to which I did refer here) and further notes that this led to the decision of Assistant General Secretary Bronwyn McKenna (described as “brave” by the ACO for reasons explained in the decision) to suspend the Greater London Regional Secretary.

At paragraph 203, the ACO comments on the terms of reference given to Assistant General Secretary, Roger McKenzie, noting that the emphasis in those terms of reference is on “the person who had made the allegation – namely Mr Rogers – which (she goes on to say) does not sit easily with the assertion that people were encouraged to come forward as witnesses and reminded of the whistleblowing protection: surely the maker of the complaint is less relevant than whether the complaint has merit? It demonised and exposed Mr Rogers. It was also inaccurate as two other NEC members had by then made identical complaints and Mr Rogers was not therefore a lone voice.” This is indeed true as my fellow NEC members, friends and comrades, Sonya Howard and Helen Davies were co-complainants from the start.

The ACO notes (at paragraph 214) that the result of the General Secretary election was declared on 17 December 2015. The turnout was a miserable 9.8% but Dave Prentis won a convincing victory (even if far less impressive than in previous elections) with 66,155 votes to 35,433 for Heather Wakefield, 16,853 for Roger Bannister and 15,573 for John Burgess.

At paragraph 218 of her decision the ACO notes that on the same date as the results were declared an email was issued by UNISON’s then President, which she goes on to describe, in the following paragraph, as “quite an extraordinary email”. The email (which was subsequently circulated on behalf of the Regional Convenor, by staff in the Regional Office, to every branch in London) is worth quoting in full;

“Dear Colleague

As you know a number of serious allegations have been made against our union in London.

The complaints are being investigated.

Whilst it is not our practice to comment on an ongoing investigation on this occasion we believe there is one aspect that warrants public disclosure.  This can be done without compromising the rights of those involved in this matter.

The complaint presented by Jon Rogers relies heavily on an anonymous recording.  Given the seriousness of this tape the union commissioned an independent forensic report of the recording.  The Presidential Team and the Trustees of the union now have the full report from the Audio Forensic Service.

The forensic analysis was undertaken by an accredited audio specialist and the company is used by the High Court for audio evidence.

The report clearly states that “the probability of tampering is exceptionally high”.  On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), the Independent Expert rates the tape as a 5/5.

The results have been passed to the Investigating Officer and the ERS and as the Presidential Team and Trustees we are also asking for a formal investigation of the providence of the recording.

Please share as appropriate.


WENDY NICHOLS, PRESIDENT
ERIC ROBERTS, VICE PRESIDENT
CAROL SEWELL, VICE PRESIDENT
MAUREEN LE MARINEL, TRUSTEE
CHRIS TANSLEY, TRUSTEE”

The ACO, at paragraph 220 describes this email as “a classic example of an attempt by the victors to write the history (regardless of accuracy) and denigrate those whom they see as their vanquished adversaries.” She goes on to note, in the following paragraph, that “it is unsurprising that no witnesses came forward to Mr McKenzie’s investigation after the email had been sent. The final sentence of the email encourages the email to be forwarded as widely as possible. Just the day before Mr Rogers had been assisting the investigation and encouraging people with relevant evidence to come forward to Mr McKenzie.”

At paragraph 222 the ACO describes the naming of your humble blogger as “startling” and observes that it had the “no doubt desired effect” of undermining the person so named.

She also quotes from an email sent to me as a result of the Presidential email be an intemperate individual whom I shall not name (but will observe that I really hope he is not elected to our National Executive Council to represent the Greater London Region when the results are declared tomorrow).

In the following paragraph the ACO notes that on that same date your blogger received correspondence from a firm of lawyers instructed to issue a threat of libel proceedings by an individual.

I was not the party who disclosed information about this matter in the course of the proceedings before the Certification Officer and would never have revealed this had it not now been included in a public legal judgment as a result of disclosures by other parties.

I say no more than that you will be able to read paragraph 223 for yourself when it is published on the website of the Certification Officer.

I have issued a public apology to Dave Prentis and I stand by that apology (as you will see the ACO notes when you read paragraph 223). You can also see from paragraph 231 that the ACO does not find that the General Secretary knew of the breaches of Rule committed by his supporters, including the (then) Greater London Regional Secretary.

At paragraph 297 the ACO, having rightly criticised the “demonization” of my fellow complainant Heather Wakefield by our trade union, goes on to criticise the “attempted humiliation of Mr Rogers and the denouncement of him for having brought the tape of the 21 October meeting to the attention of ERS and the extraordinary email from the President on 17 December on the day of the Election result.”

This is the point at which the ACO kindly implies that perhaps your blogger deserves an apology, or at least some acknowledgement of having brought electoral malpractice to light (as I blogged previously).

This brings me to the point of this post.

I have shared here with you these extracts from the decision of the ACO as they relate to myself because I want to make the point that it is necessary, in fighting for democracy in our movement, sometimes to expose oneself to criticism and attack.

UNISON may be celebrating the fact that an almost impossible outcome of the Certification Officer complaints did not come to pass but, as a complainant I want trade unionists who read this blog to know that I am smiling.

The “attempted humiliation of Mr Rogers” failed.

Better luck next time. 

2 comments:

Bec Ellis said...

While I am very pleased that these appalling practices by our union officers have been exposed, I do think they may have missed an important point. Had the ordinary members and activists known about this, the result may well have been very different - would people have still voted for Dave Prentis?

The thing that makes me really sick about this is that these people, who behave so arrogantly, are paid from our money and the money of our members. Cleaners, teaching assistants, care workers, people who are not paid huge salaries but still stump up their subs every month. It's wrong. And it's brought our union into disrepute.

Conference should be interesting next month.

Brian Smith said...

The thing I like best about Wendy N's stupid email (which was posted to every activist in the land) is her use of the word 'providence'.