Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Return of the Returning officer

At the start of the NEC meeting held on Wednesday 17th February 2016 the UNISON President made a statement that the union was still waiting for the returning officer’s report in relation to the General Secretary election – the result of which was declared on 17th December 2015. The President expressed frustration that this was the case (This report has now been published on the UNISON national website - Friday 19th February 2016).

See here:

It had been hoped the report would have been ready by 11th January 2016. NEC members from the North West (myself included) asked a number of questions about the reasons for the delay as it was unusual for the report not to be available on the date the election result was declared. The President stated that she assumed the reason for the delay was because there had been so many complaints and that the union had a duty to publish the report. 
A highlight of the report now published was that ’83 complaints were received regarding staff in the Greater London Region, specifically that UNISON staff during working time were undertaking campaigning activities. The basis of all these complaints was a recording and a transcript of a meeting that took place at the Greater London UNISON offices at 2 p.m. on 21st October 2015.’ ‘These complaints are, as at the date of this report, the subject of an ongoing investigation by the union.’ – Report dated 18th February 2016.  
There is some analysis that any undue influence by these campaigning activities in the Greater London Region has not affected the outcome of the election - ‘of the 12 regions the percentage vote for Dave Prentis in the Greater London Region is the 2nd lowest percentage votes he received by Region. ‘It should also be emphasised that the returning officer has not at any stage been presented with any evidence that suggests that any candidates were directly involved in, or had any knowledge of any of the activities that were the subject of the complaints’.

There needs to be a period of reflection on all of this and the union’s NEC should have the opportunity to discuss the conclusion and recommendations of the report. There are a number of issues including the poor turnout in the election (9.8%), much lower than previous General Secretary elections, which shows a worrying disengagement of members from their union.  There is also a further article in the latest ‘Private Eye’ magazine on the UNISON General Secretary election ‘Flexible friends’ No. 1412 19th February – 3rd March 2016 which raises further worrying concerns for the union. This was raised by a North West NEC member at the meeting on 17th February 2016 asking was there an investigation into the new Private Eye allegations? The President replied that she had not seen the Private Eye allegations.  
I will blog a full report of the rest of the business discussed at the NEC meeting on 17th February 2016 separately.

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