Overshadowed by election scandal

The result of the Unison general secretary election saw Dave Prentis returned to the leadership of the union but question marks remain over the election.

The final vote saw a very low turnout with participation falling 38% from the previous election in 2010.

Dave Prentis received 66,155 votes (49.4%), Heather Wakefield 35,433 (26.4%), Roger Bannister 16,853 (12.6%) and John Burgess came last with 15,573 (11.6%).

For the first time Dave Prentis’ share of the vote fell below 50%. He could well have been defeated if a single anti-Prentis candidate had been on the ballot paper. This was very nearly achieved but was scuppered by John Burgess and his supporters.

On the initiative of Roger Bannister (a Socialist Party member) a meeting was held on 14th October with Heather Wakefield and John Burgess. This was in the period after the close of nominations (9th October) but before the closing date to withdraw a candidacy (16th October).
Roger Bannister offered to withdraw if a single anti-Prentis candidate could be achieved.
After an hour of discussion John Burgess announced he had no intention of withdrawing as he had no mandate to do so from his supporters. He then declared that Roger Bannister and Heather Wakefield were welcome to support his campaign and left the meeting.

Roger Bannister, at NSSN conference 2015, photo Senan

Roger Bannister, at NSSN conference 2015, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The SWP, one of Burgess’ key supporters, rejected the idea of supporting one candidate (unless it was John Burgess) in an article by Karen Reissmann in Socialist Worker on 13th October: “While a single candidate could beat Prentis we need a real socialist challenge, which Wakefield doesn’t represent.”

If there is a re-run of the election a much more serious attitude towards beating Dave Prentis will be necessary.

Election scandal

The election was rocked days before the close of voting with the publication of a secret recording alleging interference into the election from Unison London full time staff. This is strictly forbidden under union rules.

The scandal cast a long shadow over the election announcement. When the candidates met this morning to hear the result there were two announcements from the Electoral Reform Service (the body which oversees the election).

Firstly the independent scrutineer announced that there was a serious complaint regarding the running of the election currently under investigation. Pending the outcome of the investigation the ERS reserved the right to order the election be re-run. The returning officer then announced the result.

As the Socialist has previously reported, doubts remain about the independence of the ERS from Unison. Roger Bannister has lodged a formal complaint with the Trade Union Certification Officer (TUCO). The TUCO has the power to order a re-run of the election.

Commenting on his complaint Roger Bannister said: “I have lodged the complaint because of serious electoral malpractice carried out by key members of Unison staff. Although an internal investigation has been launched it is not clear if it includes the general secretary!
“Previous investigations by the right-wing dominated NEC into the illegal witch-hunt against four socialist activists have been kept under wraps. The wrong-doing in Unison must be brought into the clear light of day.”

By Socialist Party members in Unison