Unison union president Wendy Nichols said last week that the long-awaited returning officer’s report into the general secretary election “confirms the result”.
“Any issues raised in the report will now be reviewed and dealt with through the union’s normal procedures,” Nichols said. Yet this is not the end of the matter.
The report states that the returning officer received 157 complaints, “a significantly higher number” than in previous elections.
These range from communications between elected bodies and members, to the order in which candidates appeared on the voting paper.
But over half of all complaints remain under investigation by Unison, and the returning officer has made “no decision” on them.
They relate to a recording of a meeting of Unison staff at the Greater London regional offices on 21 October.
The recording revealed Unison’s London regional secretary Linda Perks giving detailed instructions to staff to use their paid time to help Prentis’ campaign. Assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie is running a Unison investigation into this.
The returning officer’s report says complaints had suggested that “undue influence” took place in winning nominations for Prentis “that otherwise may not have been made in the Greater London Region”.
It added that there were also complaints that Unison resources “have also been used to unfairly influence and support the campaign of Dave Prentis” and helped to win almost half of all votes cast in Greater London.
The report says, “the returning officer has not at any stage been presented with any evidence that suggests that any candidates were directly involved in, or had knowledge of any of the activities that were the subject of the complaints”.
The returning officer thought, “Whilst undoubtedly the number and nature of the complaints has undermined some members confidence in the integrity of the election—in particular the serious nature of the complaints in the Greater London Region—there is minimal evidence to suggest that the reported breaches influenced the voting intentions of members”.
In addition to the complaints that the retuning officer examined, new leaked emails allege the involvement of up to 50 officials and full time staff in the campaign to re-elect Prentis. These raise the possibility that election rules stating staff “should not take advantage of their position as employees of Unison” could have been breached.
Ultimately, a decision on whether or not to re-run the election rests with the national executive.
Unison members should bombard it with demands to do just that and hold an independent inquiry.