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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 March 2010

Legal ruling exposes hypocrisy of Unison leadership

A ruling by the Certification Officer, the government official who has powers to declare if a union has broken its own rules, has exposed the hypocrisy of Unison's right wing leadership.

Left wing activists are hounded on the basis of dubious interpretations of the rules, and minor misdemeanours are escalated into major disciplinary offences. But the right wing are allowed to break the rules with impunity.

The case was brought by Caroline Bedale, secretary of Unison's Manchester Community and Mental Health branch.

Caroline is herself a victim of the witch hunt against the left, having been recently banned from union office for a staggering eight years for her role in organising legal representation for Karen Reissman.

Karen is a nurse victimised by her employer for criticising them in public, after Unison had withdrawn their own legal representation.

Caroline complained about a meeting organised by the Manchester Local Government branch, a leading right wing led branch, in summer 2009. Under the guise of a social event to open their new branch office, the right wing slate for the national executive elections was pushed by leading right wingers in the union.

After this meeting, the deputy secretary sent an email round reporting the right wing slate.

These events came to light in a report to the Cheshire branch committee by their representative at the meeting. Under Unison's rules, union resources cannot be used to promote candidates in internal elections.

Caroline's complaint was dealt with by the union's North West region. Not surprisingly, given the political bias towards the right wing in the region, the complaint was not upheld. Caroline therefore referred it to the Certification Officer.

Caroline faced a problem at the hearing in that she relied on the report from the Cheshire branch, whereas the secretary of the Manchester branch attended in person to deny the allegations.

Under evidence rules, a direct witness who can be cross-examined usually carries more weight than a written statement. But the Certification Officer found the evidence in the statement more credible, and ruled that the union's rules were breached.

This ruling will give Unison's leaders a number of problems. Will they take action against their right-wing friends in the Manchester branch? Will they take action against the official who investigated Caroline's complaint?

This ruling, available on the Certification Officer's website, should be read by all Unison members.

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