Tuesday, 29 November 2016

#Unisongate Burgess and Ors. v UNISON Complaint 2

Dear UNISON members and all trade union members. 

As the the date of the three day hearing approaches, people are asking: 

1. "What is #Unisongate and what are you complaining about? 

2. "Can members of the public attend the hearing?"

The hearing which is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC runs for three days starting:

Monday 19 December to Wednesday 21 December inclusive 

Venue: Fleetbank House, LONDON, EC4Y 8JX

Here is our first our Complaint 2

On or about 2 August 2015 to on or about 24 November 2015, UNISON breached paragraph 51 of the General Secretary 2015 Election Procedures which are made under rules D7 and E3.3 and paragraph 7 of Schedule C to the UNISON rule book. These breaches took the form of a sustained and prolonged misuse of union resources as evidenced by the email correspondence from Mr Cliff Williams on behalf of ‘Team Dave’ the campaign to elect Mr David Prentis. Given that a number of these emails were sent during the time when Mr Williams was being paid to carry out UNISON business the circulation of the emails amounted to a misuse of union resources, funds and property. Further the emails reveal that UNISON resources, funds and property were used to promote and campaign for Mr David Prentis. Examples of these emails are set out in the Annexe to this complaint.

Annexe to complaint 2

4. Email from Liz Snape (assistant General Secretary) dated Saturday 29 August 2015
‘The Health SGE (service group executive) chairs have done a letter to all health branches –this will be sent on Tuesday for the opening of nominations on Wednesday.’
Health SGE Chairs have no means of sending any communications out other than via the official channels of the union, the use of these means of communication is a union resource.

5. Team Dave; Update No 14 dated Sunday 27 September 2015 states
‘Please use your contacts in the branches to push for more nominations’
‘If you have any contacts that you can lobby, in any of the Regions involved please do what you can to support Dave’

6. Team Dave ; Update No 15 sent at 13.19 on Friday 2 October 2015
‘Use your network to contact any branch that hasn’t nominated and try to get them to do so and support Dave’ It should be noted that none of the recipients of this instruction are members of any branch and as such could only contact a branch in the capacity as a full time official.

7. Team Dave; Update No 16 sent at 21.04 on Sunday 4 October 2015
‘Please don’t leave anything to chance and make sure that contact is maintained with our reps on the Execs. The results particularly from Scotland and the NW will mean that there will be lots of pressure on our people to change their votes. Try and speak to them before the meeting starts’
It should be noted that the recipients of this instruction could only attend the Executive meetings mentioned, in their capacity as employees which would be in work time, hence they would be using union resources to conduct this campaigning.

8. Team Dave ; Update No 20 sent at 09.44 on Friday 23 October 2015
States ‘It may be that in some circumstances you may be able to “circumvent” hostile branches by covertly working with sympathetic employer contacts. I acknowledge that some colleagues may feel that this is ethically inappropriate but it doesn’t breach campaign rules; it will however need to be done with caution’

We note here that the email refers to ‘covertly working with sympathetic employer contacts’ we submit that by definition the full time officers recipients are employed by UNISON and the only means they have to acquire ‘sympathetic employer contacts’ is in their role as employees of the union which have members employed by the employer contacts. Thus the relationship to the ‘sympathetic employer contacts’ can only be one that arises from the recipient’s position as an employee of the union not as an individual.

9. Team Dave; Update 22 sent at 18.00 on Friday 30 October 2015
States ‘3. The 12th of November will be Vote Dave Day”. We will aim to ramp up our social media campaign but if you can arrange work site events then do so and send details through to me and Liz’.
The reference to ‘work site events’ can only refer to those premises at which UNISON is recognised.
We submit that the full time officers who received this email could only organise such events in their capacity as employees of the union, as such this is another use of UNISON resources in breach of rule.

Point 7. States ‘Include Dave in any press releases’

We submit that this is clearly directed at full time officers misusing the press release facilities of the union in an official capacity to promote the candidacy of Dave Prentis.

10. Team Dave ; Update No 27 sent at 10.47 on Tuesday 24 November 2015
States ‘It’s not enough to win, we need a strong margin between Dave and the contenders as we anticipate that there will be attempts to challenge the result. A wide margin minimises that possibility’

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 23-minute tape appeared on an Anonymous Blog here: 

The audio file can be downloaded online here:  

The audio recording largely features the voice of UNISON’s London regional secretary, 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 staff 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 https://www.scribd.com/doc/312252796/Private-Eye-p-38-Feb-2016

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 sacking, privatising or cutting the Terms and Conditions of our members. The idea that union paid unelected officials would go behind the backs of locally elected branch officials is appalling and has no place in a trade union. To date there has been no condemnation of these remarks or any investigation.

 Repeated calls for an independent investigation were turned down.

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


1 comment:

  1. Good luck with this. Individuals in powerful positions who think they are unaccountable should be brought to account