Mineworkers’ union member fails in Employment Appeal Tribunal challenge to election of president

A miners’ union member who claimed that the successful candidate for election as president was “ineligible to stand” has failed in an appeal.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the certification officer did not err in dismissing a complaint by Stephen Mace that Nicky Wilson should not have been allowed to run for election as national president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 2012 as he was not a member of the union.

Mrs Justice Slade (pictured) ruled that Mr Wilson was “validly nominated” for the office.

Mr Mace, who was represented at the EAT hearing by Arthur Scargill, made complaints against the NUM of breaches of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) and of the rules of the NUM regarding the acceptance of the nomination of Mr Wilson as a candidate for election to the position of NUM national lay president and the refusal of his nomination.

Mr Mace argued that the decision to exclude his nomination to stand as a candidate was an “unreasonable exclusion”. He also claimed that the NUM acted in breach of TULCRA and in breach of its rules in relation to the nomination and the election.

Mr Mace appealed from the dismissal of his first complaint to the CO, and asked the EAT to set aside the enforcement order calling for another election, arguing that he should be declared elected unopposed on the grounds that he was the “only valid candidate”.

The tribunal heard that Mr Wilson started work in the mining industry in Scotland in 1967 when he joined the NUM, and became a member of the Scottish Colliery Engineman, Boilerman and Tradesmen Association (SCEBTA).

In the 1987 rules of the NUM, Scotland was named as an “Area” and its corresponding constituent association as the NUM (Scottish Area), with SCEBTA listed in as a constituent association, but it was decided that they should come together and be operated as one area to be known as the NUM (Scotland Area).

Mr Wilson, general secretary of SCEBTA, NUM (Scottish Area) and NUM Scotland Area since 1999, lost his job as a miner in 2002 when the colliery at which he worked closed, but it was agreed that the NUM would employ him and he was paid out of the funds retained by the NUM (Scottish Area) – though he performed work for NUM (Scottish Area), SCEBTA and NUM (Scotland Area) and later transferred his employment to NUM (Scotland Area).

When nominations for election to the post of national president were invited in November 2011, the Maltby branch of the Yorkshire Area of the union nominated Mr Mace, while Mr Wilson had been nominated by the other two branches in the Yorkshire Area, Killingley and Hatfield.

At a meeting of the Yorkshire Area Council, branch delegates decided that Mr Wilson should be nominated for election as national president and the CO was informed that Mr Wilson had also been nominated for election by most of the other areas of the union, while Mr Mace had received no nominations from any area.

In January 2012 Electoral Reform Services reported that there was no need for an election as there had been only one nomination for the position, and therefore on 29 February 2012 the National Executive Committee (NEC) declared Mr Wilson national president, but Mr Mace challenged the decision.

At the heart of the submissions on behalf of Mr Mace was the proposition that at the material time Mr Wilson was employed by and paid by the NUM (Scottish Area), which was not an area of the NUM within the meaning of rule 17. Accordingly, after he ceased to be a working miner in 2002 and worked for the NUM (Scottish Area), Mr Wilson ceased to be eligible for membership of the NUM under rule 5.A.

However, the EAT dismissed the appeal after concluding that the certification officer did not err in dismissing the complaint by Mr Mace that Mr Wilson was ineligible to stand as he was not a member of the union within the meaning of NUM rule 5A(iii).

Handing down her judgment, Mrs Justice Slade said: “The CO found as a fact that in 2002 Mr Wilson was paid out of the funds retained by the NUM (Scottish Area) but he performed work as an area official of NUM (Scotland) with responsibilities for all NUM members in Scotland and that NUM (Scotland) agreed to provide that work.

“In my judgment the fact that in 2013 the contact under which Mr Wilson worked transferred from the NUM (Scottish Area) to the NUM (Scotland Area) supports rather than undermines the position that all three bodies within the Scottish NUM acted as one.

“That Mr Wilson was made redundant by the NUM (Scottish Area) is not inconsistent with the decision of the CO that Mr Wilson’s contract was the means by which he was to be remunerated for the performance of his duties for the NUM (Scotland Area).”

The EAT also held that the certification officer did not err in holding that Mr Wilson came within the intended meaning of the rule as an area official performing duties for the NUM (Scotland Area) which was an area within the rules although he was paid by the NUM (Scottish Area).

Further, the CO did not err in holding that the union could rely on section 47(3) of the 1992 Act to uphold a condition of membership of the NEC as a qualification for standing for election as national president.

Mrs Justice Slade added: “The substituted enforcement order sought by Mr Mace depends upon Mr Wilson not being eligible in December 2011 for nomination for election for the position of national president. I have held that Mr Wilson was validly nominated for election.”

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