Tuesday 2 February 2010

Not all Tory union laws were bad

"Repeal Thatcher's trade union laws" is still a cry that will get you a round of applause at any Trade Union gathering. But among all the hateful legislation that the Tories did put in, there's a couple that I actually like.

The first is that General Secretaries must be elected on one member, one vote. Of course I would hope that all unions would do that without the law, but maybe some wouldn't.

The second is much more obscure, the establishment of what's now called the Certification Officer. Put simply, the CO is the person you can go to if you think a union has broken it's own rules, kind of like an ombudsman.

I'm a bit late to it because I was on holiday, but Bob Oram, UNISON NEC and last heard of being heckled at National Delegate Conference has posted on the usually excellent UNISON Active blog that the CO is a government imposition on the freedom of trade unions.

If that's the case, it's a imposition that's been used lightly, in the last 10 years, the CO has heard 17 cases of which 4 have been upheld, 2 enforcement orders have been made and 1 of those was successfully appealed against by the union.

If it's used so infrequently, why is it important? It's important because it gives our members confidence that if the union breaches rules at the highest level, there's someone independent to appeal to. It gives reassurance that the NEC will act in the best interests of the membership. No organisation is perfect and the CO is there to catch the times when the NEC does fall down. That's not an imposition, that's a good thing.

So, for maybe the only time I might say it, thanks Thatcher for the Certification Officer.

General Secretary update

In the interests of fairness, I should mention that Paul Holmes now has a group on Facebook as well.

Monday 1 February 2010

The runners are on their marks

A snap General Secretary election has been called by the National Executive Committee and from Thursday through to 1st April, branches, regions, service groups and the NEC itself will be asked to nominate candidates for the election.

To get on to the ballot paper, candidates will need the support of the NEC, two service group executives, two regional councils or 25 branches.

During the nomination period, this blog will be neutral, there's a hustings being organised for 3rd April and I'll decide after hearing each candidate which one, out of those actually on the ballot paper I'll support and vote for.

At the moment there's two declared candidates with rumours of a third.

Dave Prentis
, incumbent General Secretary, wants another five year team. His campaign has launched into high gear with a facebook group with over 100 members already.

Paul Holmes, branch secretary for Kirklees Local Government, announced his candidacy yesterday. He's not put much out but he's worried some Dave Prentis supporters judging from this attack on the UNISON Active blog.

Roger Bannister, branch secretary for Knowsley Local Government, is rumoured to be standing, but I haven't seen anything to confirm that yet.

I do think it's disappointing to say the least that a union with 80% female membership doesn't have any female candidate to lead the union. It's not like there aren't credible candidates out there.