REVEALED: how FBU head office misled Scottish members over suspension of regional secretary election / MileA

LAST WEEK, we reported that the election for the position of FBU regional secretary for Scotland had been suspended just 15 minutes before the close of balloting.

The controversial decision to halt the high-profile election – which came just days after the equally contentious decision to suspend the region’s executive council member, Chris McGlone, on disciplinary grounds – has given rise to a heated debate inside the Scottish region, with many members demanding an explanation from the union’s head office. So far, all they have been told is that the election was suspended owing to an ‘internal union discipline complaint’ that was submitted ‘some weeks ago’.

Current regional secretary Denise Christie is being challenged for the post by the area secretary for the west of Scotland, Ian Sim. Christie is the favoured candidate of the FBU’s head office, while Sim is seen as the ‘change’ candidate and has previously voiced criticism of the union’s leadership.

Insiders in the region say that, as the election progressed, Sim’s campaign gathered momentum, with some of his closest supporters predicting that he was heading for victory.

Against this background, the decision to suspend the election – which was being managed by independent scrutineer Popularis – has created a great deal of suspicion.

Now, in a disturbing twist, we can reveal that FBU head office appears to have deliberately misled Scottish members over the question of who made the decision to suspend the election.

In an email to the Scottish regional committee, sent shortly after the decision to suspend the election was taken on 1 December, FBU national officer Riccardo La Torre wrote:

‘Following a discussion with Popularis, and seeking their advice as the scrutineer for this election, the decision was taken to pause the election process. To confirm, Popularis have paused the Region 1 Regional Secretary election process, including the counting of votes, prior to the scheduled election close at 14.00 hours and as such no result has been established.’

This statement seemed designed to leave the regional committee in no doubt that the decision to suspend the election was ultimately taken by Popularis and not FBU head office.

This narrative was then taken up by Denise Christie, who, in a written reply to a query from a Scottish member (which has been seen by us), made reference to the email from La Torre. Christie told the member:

‘The email from head office advised the Scottish Regional Committee that the election had been paused by Popularis, who are the independent scrutineers of FBU elections.’

Once again, the statement seems designed to give the clear impression that responsibility for the suspension of the election lay with the scrutineer and not the FBU.

However, we can reveal that Popularis has rejected that account of events. Responding to an enquiry from a Scottish FBU member on 9 December, the managing director of Popularis, Anne Hock, wrote in an email (which has been seen by us):

Mr *******

The decision to suspend the election was taken by the union, and you need to contact the General Secretary for clarification.

Many thanks

Anne Hock BEM, Managing Director, Popularis Ltd

These revelations will serve to deepen existing tensions inside the Scottish region. Why did head office officials attempt to mislead Scottish members? Why were they so keen to pass the buck to Popularis? Why didn’t they admit that they were ultimately responsible for the suspension of the election?

If senior FBU officials are going to take the controversial decision to halt a pivotal election just 15 minutes before the result was due to be declared, they should at least have the backbone to own that decision, rather than seek to deflect responsibility to the scrutineer.

FBU leaders are now under serious pressure to reinstate the election and declare the result without further delay. They will also, no doubt, face demands from Scottish members to explain why they peddled a false narrative about where responsibility lay for the decision to suspend the election.  

These developments are further evidence of the increasingly arrogant and dictatorial approach of the FBU leadership. As we have shown in previous blogs, this is a leadership that shows contempt for the principles of democracy, accountability and transparency. It is a leadership that treats the FBU as its own personal property and thinks itself above the normal rules of scrutiny.

It is a leadership, ultimately, that is no longer fit to lead.

We will post updates to this story as and when they occur. You can follow us on Twitter here and Facebook here.