FBU leadership to face public hearing over attempts to block financial transparency

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FBU LEADERS HAVE been ordered to appear before the official regulator for trade unions – known as the ‘certification officer’ – after refusing to withdraw their demand that a member sign a secrecy agreement as a condition of being allowed to inspect the union’s accounts.

A member of the FBU – who is also a member of the Campaign for a Democratic FBU steering committee – made a request back in April to view a number of accounting records held by the union. These included records detailing controversial ‘hush money’ payments to departing employees, donations to external organisations, and personal spending by senior officials.

Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, all trade union members are entitled to inspect the accounting records of their union, and unions are required to grant access to the records within 28 days of receiving a request.

We have detailed in previous blogs how, in the eight months since the request was submitted, FBU leaders have erected barrier after barrier in an effort to prevent the inspection taking place – even attempting to charge the member an upfront ‘administrative’ fee of £2,400 and threatening him with a court injunction. A full account of the leadership’s unscrupulous actions can be read here.

After receiving a formal complaint from the member, the certification officer intervened in the matter, and a date of 29 October was fixed for the inspection to take place. However, at the eleventh hour, the union leadership presented the member with a draft secrecy agreement imposing strict conditions on what he may do with information obtained from the inspection. They then cancelled the inspection at the last minute when he refused to sign the draft agreement.

After being contacted again by the member, the certification officer wrote to the FBU leadership and made it quite clear that the member’s right under legislation to inspect the accounting records was not constrained by any obligation to sign the secrecy agreement they had presented to him.

But still the union leadership refused to comply. They even revealed in a reply to the certification officer that they had enlisted the services of a top barrister – no doubt at considerable cost to members – to assist them in the matter.

So the certification officer wrote to the union leadership again, stressing that unless they allowed the member to inspect the records a public hearing would take place into the member’s complaint.

But still the FBU leadership didn’t budge.

Now it seems the certification officer has run out of patience with the leadership. In a letter dated 17 December, the certification officer ordered the union to attend a hearing in February 2022. The hearing will take place by videoconference and will be viewable by members of the public.

The certification officer will have the power at the hearing to issue an enforcement order compelling the union to permit the member to inspect the accounting records, and it is reasonable to assume that this is what will happen.

FBU leaders are now fast running out of road in their attempts to block financial transparency and circumvent the law. Members will no doubt be extremely perturbed at their actions.  

We will provide details in due course of how members may watch the hearing online.

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