Trade union regulator tells FBU leadership: You are in the wrong over accounts dispute

Photo by Stephen Stacey from FreeImages

LAST WEEK, we reported on how the FBU leadership had, at the eleventh hour, pulled the plug on a planned inspection of the union’s accounts by a member.

The leadership had demanded the member sign a ‘confidentiality agreement’ – in reality a secrecy agreement – before permitting the inspection to take place. When the member refused, he was informed – at less than 24 hours’ notice – that the inspection was cancelled. Astonishingly, the leadership also threatened to hit the member with a court injunction for having refused to sign the agreement.

Under section 30 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, all trade union members have the right 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.  

The member originally requested to inspect the records seven months ago. In the period since, the union’s leadership has erected barrier after barrier in an effort to prevent the inspection from going ahead (including unlawfully attempting to charge the member an upfront fee of £2,400!).

As a result of the leadership’s latest stunt over the secrecy agreement, the member wrote to the certification officer (the government’s regulator for trade unions). Today (4 November), Adam Goldstein, an operations manager within the office of the certification officer, wrote to the union. In his letter, Mr Goldstein stated:

“I have discussed the latest correspondence with the assistant certification officer… I must emphasise that section 30 of the 1992 Act makes no allowance for the union to require an applicant to enter into a confidentiality agreement, and I cannot see that there are grounds for limiting the right to access accounting records in this way.”

Mr Goldstein went on to make it clear that he expected the union leadership to facilitate the inspection without further delay.

The matter is therefore clear cut. FBU leaders have no right to deny members access to the accounting records of the union, and in constantly placing obstacles in the way of those wishing to do so they are wilfully flouting their legal obligations and standing in the way of transparency and accountability.

We call on the FBU leadership to take heed of the certification officer’s position and to allow the inspection of the accounting records to go ahead at the earliest opportunity.