Professor Cludeau

If you suspected that Unite's paid election commissioner's report into complaints of invalid nominations in the 2014 Executive elections was a complete whitewash, you will only be confirmed in that belief by this week's Trade Union Certification Officer ruling.

Just after the election, Grass Root Left's candidate Lesley Mansell submitted a complaint to the Election Commissioner, Professor Ewing, saying that at least one branch, BASSA, had made 7 invalid nominations at its meeting on 12th January 2014. Funnily enough all their nominations had been for the Len McCluskey supporting candidates of 'United Left'.

Lesley's complaint was that the branch had:

  • Changed the date of the meeting,
  • Not informed members that nominations would be made on the new date,
  • Not put 'nominations' on the agenda and
  • Not asked members to confirm, object to or suggest other nominations than the United Left ones chosen by the small branch committee.
      BASSA branch has about 9,000 members. Prof Ewing rejected the complaints after a brief and shortened investigation:

      Prof Ewing.   Glasses as a hat.
      "I did not investigate further whether 7 days’ notice was given to members, whether nominations appeared on the agenda, or whether there was a request for endorsement or a vote on the nominations.   This is because on the basis of the investigations already conducted (including in particular my conversation with the branch secretary), it was not necessary to do so for the purpose of dealing with this complaint."

      There is no record or even summary of Ewing's chat with the branch secretary and none was made available to Lesley.

      However you don't need to be a professor to see that 'nominations' does not appear on the agenda.  Look left.  You just need to take your glasses off the top of your head.

      The Independent Trade Union Certification Officer (CO) was set up by Harold Wilson’s  Labour government in 1975.  The CO ruled this week that Ewing was wrong and that the nominations were invalid:

       "I find that the BASSA branch meeting of 13 January 2014 was not properly convened, in breach of [union] rule 16.8."

      Unite Gen Sec McCluskey - lost a loyalist

      In a further blow to 'United Left' (the bureaucratic McCluskey supporters club)  the Certification Officer also ruled that the Chair of BASSA branch at the time, 'Los Angeles Liz', had illegally kept her seat on the union's ruling Executive Council for over 7 months.   

      "I make a declaration that Unite the Union (“the Union”) breached rule 6.2 of its rules in allowing Ms Malone to hold office on the Executive Council of the Union from about 1 May 2014 to about 15 December 2014 when she was not eligible to do so as she was not then an “accountable representative of workers” according to [union] rule 6.2."
      Lizanne Malone, who lives in Los Angeles, California, did finally resign from the Executive Council (EC) in December 2014, 6 months after the first complaint had been put in and before the Certification Officer (CO) hearing.  The CO made clear that if she had not jumped, he would have pushed her:  "If she had remained on the EC I would have ordered that she be removed from it."

      In mid 2014 the BASSA branch bureaucracy panicked when they realised Lizanne Malone might have to resign  from the Executive.  Their branch Secretary wrote to all BASSA members in July 2014: 

      Los Angeles Liz, also wearing a glasses hat
      "Unite are now having to question whether Lizanne can keep her seat on the Executive Council, in regards that she has recently stood down as Chair of our branch. Unite’s Chief of Staff is researching this latest complaint in regards to the rulebook and past practice and the outcome will be given in due course.

      If they are successful in this campaign, Lizanne would have to stand down and BASSA sadly would lose a seat on the Executive Council, as it would likely go to other workers in other industries as Lizanne’s seat is a “regional women’s” seat not an “aviation” seat.

      So, in effect a handful of members of our own branch have lobbied others for us to lose a valuable seat most likely to local government workers or the community-housing sector. In short they wish to see BASSA’s ability to influence at the highest level reduced...

      In electoral terms BASSA are akin to Florida in the US presidential elections, if you can win BASSA’s support you can stand a good chance of winning the General Secretary election and, through that office, control of Unite. It is widely known BASSA is fiercely loyal to Len who was a true friend during the dispute but different leadership in BASSA would see that change.."
      Murray - " I believe this complaint is entirely without merit"
      Unite's chief of Staff Andrew Murray did his best to keep her.  In an email disclosed to the hearing (at left), Murray wrote to General Secretary McCluskey with a plan to claim Malone had been victimised by her employer British Airways.  

      However evidence was given at the hearing pointing out that she actually got on better with her employer than many of her members did. She tried to offer her branch as sponsor for British Airways Head of IFCE, Bill Francis.  IFCE is the department responsible for administering cabin crews:

      To: ██████████████
      Subject: BASSA:
      Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2011 11:28:36 +0100

      Dear Colleagues 

      Just over a week ago during a 2-day meeting with BA, Bill Francis mentioned to me he was taking part in the GNR [Great Northern Run].. I told Bill that BASSA would sponsor him.. The gesture was well-intentioned.. But sometimes working on peace is harder than waging war. It seems my offer has caused offence with sections of the membership and, in hindsight, I can understand that. Perhaps a little more water has yet to flow under the bridge and there has to be more concrete evidence that BA are more proactive in putting the past behind them. I have this morning telephoned Bill to tell him that perhaps the BASSA membership are not quite ready to embrace this gesture just yet..

      Lizanne Malone:
      Chairman BASSA 2000"

      In total 5 complaints were submitted to the Certification Officer, the first two were the key ones and both were upheld.  The remaining three related merely to the union's  handling of the key complaint and were rejected.

      Read the full Certification Officer report here.

      Meanwhile BASSA branch members are still trying to inspect their branch's accounts under union rule 19.10.  They are attempting to uncover, amongst many other things, how over £1/2 million can be spend on 'sundries' in a single year:

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