"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.
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