Union members would not back injunction, judge rules

Former Ucatt boss Alan Ritchie’s bid to block the union’s active leadership election has been rejected by the High Court.

Mrs Justice Proudman ruled today (Monday) that the union’s members would not back Ritchie’s pursuit of an injunction, as it would result in the union incurring further costs arising from another election.

Ritchie was barred from standing for re-election by the union last month, amid claims - strongly denied by Ritchie - that he had misused union expenses as general secretary.

The news comes after Building revealed this morning that union bosses have voted to launch formal disciplinary proceedings against Ritchie over the allegations.

In court last week the union claimed that Ritchie was barred from standing for re-election for failing to comply with its internal investigation into the claims, adding that it had sent five letters to Ritchie requesting he arrange a meeting to discuss the claims and that he had failed to do so on each occasion.

Ritchie’s legal team argued he had been sick with depression and had been unable to comply.

Mrs Justice Proudman did not pass judgment on the matter of Ritchie’s compliance, but dismissed his legal team’s argument that if the current election was later declared void, it would distort future contests.

She pointed out that the contest had already been distorted as a result of the 2009 contest being declared void in April – after unions watchdog the Certification Office (CO) found ballot papers were sent to only half the union’s claimed 130,000 members.

Mrs Justice Proudman ruled: “An independent person [union member] would not seek to continue the claim.”

Former leadership candidate Mick Dooley – who was also barred from standing last month – has lodged a formal complaint with the CO in an attempt to void the current leadership election.

Ritchie pursued a High Court injunction as redress from the CO could take up to six months to obtain.

The union’s election, which began on 11 November, is currently between two candidates - Yorkshire regional secretary Steve Murphy and London regional secretary Jerry Swain. A new leader is expected to be installed in January.

Ritchie was the favourite to be re-elected before being banned, with the support of 123 branch nominations – more than all three of the otheroriginal candidates combined (113).

Mrs Justice Proudman said Ritchie had had a “seriously arguable case” for an injunction and permitted the right to appeal.