Friday, 4 December 2015

Barnet UNISON Rep John Burgess stitched up in dodgy union election Shenanigans

  The text below is from the blog of John Burgess. John is branch secretary for Barnet Unison and is standing for the post of general secretary of UNISON. It appears that some of the Unions officers are in cohorts with the current leadership and have been indulging in highly suspicous activities to try and stitch up the vote and nobble the challenging candidates. 

The Barnet Eye has some good friends in UNISON and are most disappointed to hear that a Union can see practices more associated with dodgy South American fascist juntas being used in a UK Union election. This sort of thing damages the credibility of the whole trades Union movement. It is clear that an independent inquiry is required. In the event that Mr Prentis wins, in light of the allegations, it is only right and proper that he is suspended until such time as all of the allegations have been investigated. 

The Barnet Eye has spoken to one of the UNISON staff members addressed in the meeting, who has strong associations with Barnet and was present at the meeting. I was told "there has been a lot of pressure to support Dave's campaign. Many of the staff support him and those that are not comfortable with what has been happening have felt it wise to keep their views to themselves". I asked whether he felt this was acceptable and he replied "No one wants to find themselves out of a job right now". The individual I spoke to wishes his identity to remain anonymous, but stated that in the event of a fair investigation by an impartial authority would come forward to speak, if his anonyimity was guaranteed. As he stated "I still have to work with the rest of the team". I asked whether his co workers were aware of his views and he replied "They haven't got a clue, and I want to keep it that way".

Of course staff members are more than entitled to hold views, but it is clear that they are using paid time to support a candidate. This cannot be deemed a fair and free election and by definition the results of it cannot be seen as representative or honest in light of this. In Council elections, officers are by law compelled to be impartial and the same is true of the Civil service in general elections. The concept that staff may feel that there jobs are under threat if they do not support a specific candidate in a Union election is disgusting. 

The government has passed many laws governing the way Trades Unions are run. It seems quite perverse that they have not passed one that outlaws the gerrymandering of votes for jobs in Union elections. Sadly if Unison can't show that they can conduct their business in an honest and fair manner, then it is likely that even more legislation will follow.

Please remember this article is just a blog. People tell us things for all sorts of reasons and sometimes we find out that we've been lead up the garden path. You sort of get to have a pretty good sixth sense for when something dodgy is going on. On many occasions we've called for independent inquirys when we've seen evidence of wrongdoing. This is one case where I'd be amazed if an independent inquiry gave the process a clean bill of health. In the event there is one and I'm proven wrong, I will publicly donate £100 to Colindale Foodbank. 

I believe UNISON members deserve better.
This has been a terrible week for our union and the wider trade union movement.

The release of the this audio tape which you can listen to here and the transcript which you can view here are clear evidence of serious breaches of our union rules, but when you listen to the tape and hear the laughter then it is clear there is a much more serious problem.

The evidence above appears to be an audio recording of what appears to be an official meeting in UNISON offices and time of over 60 officials of the unions Greater London Region where they are briefed  by Regional Secretary in the presence of the most senior officials of the region on how to intervene in the election.

Advice offered such as “don’t get caught out” and “make sure any witnesses are friendly”, make it clear that these officials are well aware that their actions are in breach of UNISON rules and election procedures.

The tape reveals the storage and distribution of election materials in UNISON premises using the time of UNISON officials, who are advised to set aside “three or four days” for the purpose at a time when UNISON members who pay their wages are crying out for support at work.

Members are now saying that we need to clean up our union. Whilst internal investigations are taking place, the question of what impact such matters may have had on the current election for General Secretary is a question for the Returning Officer rather than the Union.

In the meantime any UNISON member who has concerns about alleged malpractice in connection with the General Secretary election should raise these concerns with the Returning Officer by email to (Before the deadline of 11 December).

Finally and most importantly in order to start work and restore confidence within our union there also needs to be an independent inquiry by a suitable figure from within the Labour and Trade Union movement and it needs to happen now.



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