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Unison general secretary election in crisis
The Unison general secretary election, and the union itself, were thrown into disarray last week with the release of a secret recording of a meeting of the London regional staff. In the meeting, held on 21 October, regional secretary Linda Perks can be heard organising staff to campaign for general secretary Dave Prentis.
Under Unison rules, the use of union resources by any candidate to promote their campaign is strictly forbidden. This includes any paid employee of Unison campaigning on behalf of a candidate.
To understand the seriousness of what this recording alleges, it would be like David Cameron and the Tories using civil servants to campaign for them as part of their paid employment during a general election.
Serious rules broken
Speaking about the nomination process which had just concluded, Linda Perks congratulated staff members for securing Prentis nominations in the London region: "We have got almost 50 nominations here so that is excellent and thank you very much, Dave is very pleased and has asked me to relate this to you personally."
At the very least, the general secretary was aware of serious rule breaking occurring in the London region in support of his campaign.
The response from activists has been swift. Complaints to Unison president Wendy Nichols have flooded in from across the union.
As a result an investigation has begun, headed up by assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie. Linda Perks, a key figure in the high profile witch-hunt against four Socialist Party activists in the London region, has been relieved of her duties while the investigation takes place.
However, doubts remain about the appropriateness of Roger McKenzie as assistant general secretary, in effect investigating his boss, general secretary Dave Prentis.
Speaking to the Socialist, Unison general secretary candidate Roger Bannister said:
"It is clear the complaint is against the general secretary, among others. I do not believe that it is appropriate that Roger McKenzie investigates this complaint.
"This is not a criticism of Roger's integrity or competence. It is simply that as an assistant general secretary Roger is in a subordinate position to the general secretary, and any findings he makes will inevitably be judged in this light.
"I have asked Unison to end the current investigation in favour of one conducted by a reputable, competent person, from outside the union and one agreed by all candidates in order to demonstrate neutrality and even-handedness."
Roger Bannister and Socialist Party members in Unison have also submitted complaints to the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), the body that oversees the election. However, some Unison activists privately raise concerns about the neutrality of the ERS Returning Officer following a recent ruling where the Prentis team were breaking procedures.
Given that Dave Prentis is clearly implicated in this scandal Unison activists are calling for him to stand aside during the investigation. A lobby of the Unison NEC will take place on 9 December with this demand.
A mass campaign among the membership will be necessary to bring to light rule breaking within the union. Alongside this, all avenues of investigation should be explored, including a complaint to the trade union certification officer.
In The Socialist 9 December 2015:
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