Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/572/7095
New allegations hit Unison's right wing
ALLEGATIONS OF unconstitutional and potentially illegal use of the trade union Unison's funds and resources for pro-Labour Party political purposes have been published in Private Eye. This follows recent allegations that British National Party supporters assisted Unison's right wing leaders in their witch-hunt of a left activist.
A Unison member
According to the Private Eye article, a full time Unison official, whose salary was paid from the general funds of the union, was employed for six months as a 'recruitment assistant', but was in reality taken on to run the General Election campaign of Dave Anderson, former president of Unison, who was elected in 2005 as Labour MP for the North East constituency of Blaydon.
Under Unison's rules, and the law, all expenditure for political purposes has to come from the union's political fund.
The allegations do not stop there; the official concerned now works as Anderson's office manager, and in the week of the election, six Unison members from Glasgow went to the northern region office of Unison, where they worked on Anderson's campaign, with access to Unison telephones, mailing, computers and other equipment.
Travel and subsistence expenses for these six were also paid from the general funds of the union, it is alleged, in this case from the branch itself.
Not only would such payments and resources contravene trade union legislation, but they are potentially illegal under electoral law if they were not declared by Anderson as part of his election financial returns.
If these allegations are true they reveal a degree of hypocrisy among Unison's right wing leaders that almost defies belief. Left activists in the union are subjected to oppressive witch-hunting, where trivial matters are blown out of all proportion, with Stasi-like ruthlessness. Yet for the right wing, the rules exist only for others, and they flout them with impunity.
Ordinary Unison members will be concerned about the allegations. The right wing dares not even put the issue of Labour Party affiliation to a vote at Unison conference, let alone to a ballot of members, where it is deeply unpopular.
If it is the case that the union has spent its general funds on pro-Labour activity, not just those earmarked for such purposes, the anger will be immense.
What on earth is going on?
Against the background of poor pay deals, pay cuts through the Single Status Agreement, and mounting redundancies, members are bound to wonder what on earth is going on at the top of the union.
Fortunately the forthcoming elections for the National Executive Council give members the opportunity to vote for a change of leadership.
The Democracy Campaign, campaigning to reclaim the union for its ordinary members, is contesting most seats in these elections. They will campaign against a cover-up and for a full, open, lay-member investigation into these allegations, with the results made available to all Unison members.
Ordinary Unison members wishing to clean up their union and end its pro-Labour cowardice on defence of jobs, pay and conditions of service, should vote for these candidates.
In The Socialist 25 March 2009:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news