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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 May 2017

Certification officer confirms that Unison did break the rules in general secretary election

Unison's right-wing general secretary Dave Prentis, photo Paul Mattsson

Unison's right-wing general secretary Dave Prentis, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Roger Bannister, Unison general secretary election candidate 2015

Following the reelection of right-wing incumbent general secretary Dave Prentis in December 2015, three of the candidates who opposed him - myself, Unison local government head Heather Wakefield, John Burgess - Greater London NEC member Jon Rogers, and others complained to the certification officer about rule breaking by the pro-Prentis camp during the election.

The certification officer is a government official that maintains a register of trade unions and employers' organisations, and has certain powers to enforce the upholding of the rules of a trade union.

While the complaints were varied, the most important one was common to all applicants - that a staff meeting called by the regional secretary of Greater London in order to tell staff to campaign for Prentis breached the rule that forbids the use of Unison resources, including staff time, to campaign for any candidate in the election. This complaint was upheld.

A similar complaint about the misuse of another staff meeting in London was partially upheld, on the basis that the Greater London regional secretary told her subordinate staff that Prentis was the only credible candidate.

The ruling by the assistant certification officer Judge Mary Stacey, is in places damning of Unison. Comments like "the collusion of the Greater London regional management team and other staff members was deeply concerning", "the demonisation of Ms Wakefield", "the attempted humiliation of Mr Rogers", indicate that the true nature of the Unison bureaucracy was understood.

Despite this, it is unfortunate that the certification officer did not see fit to order Unison to rerun the election, largely on the basis of insufficient evidence that the problem went beyond the Greater London region.

Unison activists should read this ruling, and prepare to raise the important issues in it at Unison's forthcoming conference, ensuring in the process that it is properly understood by delegates, in the face of a spin campaign by the bureaucracy to make it look like a positive outcome for them!

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