Thursday, 6 October 2016

#Unisongate – “First Eleven” report back

The first news is that the Hearing dates have changed to 19, 20, 21 December 2016.

The purpose of today’s preliminary appeared to be establishing the issues and then working out how long would be needed.

Although two days had been set aside it was agreed by all parties that at least three days would be needed. This means the date of the Hearing has been put back in order that all parties could make the new dates.

The Judge hearing the case said that there was no objections to Tweeting as long as names are not used. 

We asked if we could film the Hearing via Periscope on Facebook, but this was not accepted. 

There is going to be a lot of evidence and cross examination of a number of witnesses.

This case is highly unusual as it the fact that we are going to need at least three days. 

Yes, you can attend the Hearings.

"Certification Office hearings take place at the below venue (unless otherwise stated):-

23rd Floor
Euston Tower
286 Euston Road

Hearings are held in public (unless otherwise stated) and will commence at 10:00 am. Anyone wishing to attend a hearing should telephone or email the Certification Office (020 7210 3734 / so that we may arrange for a security access pass to be produced."

The following 11 Unison members  below dubbed  "FirstEleven" or on Twitter #FirstEleven are 

1.    John Burgess
2.    Adam Tipple
3.    Phil O Reilly
4.    Patrick  Hunter
5.    Claire Dixon
6.    Liz James
7.    Alan Wylie
8.    Hugh Jordan
9.    Maggi Myland
10. Helen Davies
11. John Harris

All Eleven of us are committed to openness and transparency and will report as best we can over the next three to four months. However, the best way to find out what is being discussed is to turn up to the Hearings on 19, 20, 21 December 2016. 

Background #Unisongate complaints:

To understand some of the issues please listen and read the information and links below which have been all online in the public domain for almost 10 months.

1. Whistleblowing tape – 21 October 2015
A damning audiotape emerged in early December 2015 provided evidence that senior officials of Britain’s biggest public service union, UNISON, had allegedly acted in blatant breach of the union’s own rules to secure the incumbent general secretary’s re-election.

The audio file can be downloaded online here: 

The audio recording repeatedly features the voice of UNISON’s London regional secretary, who can be heard repeatedly thanking paid union officials under her management for their work in securing branch nominations for the three-term incumbent UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis.

“We have done very well and I want to thank everybody and congratulate them on getting the nominations that they have got. This is a list of the Greater London branch nominations for Dave Prentis the deadline closed last Friday, I do not have a list of the other candidates, and that will appear in due course but I haven’t got it. But we have done very well, we’ve got almost 50 nominations here so that is excellent and thanks very much, er Dave is very very pleased and he has related that to me personally er it is very important because obviously this is going to be a hard fought election.”
(UNISON London Regional Secretary to UNISON London Region paid officials on 21 October 2015). 

The recording includes derogatory references to Mr Prentis’ three election opponents (Roger Bannister, John Burgess and Heather Wakefield) and their supporters along with a detailed discussion of what London regional officials can do to bolster the Prentis campaign in the days running up to the start of the postal ballot on 9 November. There is also an explicit warning not to get “caught out”, while mention of the union’s election rules provokes widespread laughter.

2. Team Dave campaign emails
The public were first made aware of the Team Dave campaign emails when an article appeared in Private Eye in early February.

You can read the Private Eye article here

Here are some extracts from the above Private Eye article

“Leaked emails reach the Eye providing more evidence that full-time staff of Unison mobilised to get general secretary Dave Prentis re-elected in December making the union’s claim to be a “member-led” look increasingly questionable.”


“The emails passed to the Eye from within the Prentis campaign indicate that Unison officials were in fact the backbone of “Team Dave”. The emails were sent by assistant general secretary Cliff Williams in October and November. The bulk of the recipients were other Unison officials – a rough count shows 45 of 50 addresses are regional secretaries, head office staff and other unison staff.”

 “One striking “Team Dave” note says: “it may be in some circumstance you may be able to ‘circumvent’ hostile branches by working with sympathetic employer contacts. I acknowledge that some colleagues may feel this is ethically inappropriate but it doesn’t breach campaign rules; it will have to be done with caution.”

It may not break campaign rules, but it still doesn’t look good. Similarly, having Unison officials lead the Prentis campaign doesn’t match the spirit of the union being “member led”.

The third extract above is in our view one of the most damming, especially for those grassroots reps and members who have been fighting employers who are either sacking, privatising or cutting the Terms and Conditions of our members. The idea that paid officials would go behind the backs of local branches is appalling and has no place in a trade union. To date there has been no condemnation of these remarks or any investigation.

The “Team Dave” emails provide a context to the content of the audio tape of the meeting in London on 21 October 2015.

Read Three earlier Private Eye articles here
1.    Unison on tape
2.    A family affair
3.    A greasy poll


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