Union complains about investigation into election of general secretary Alan Ritchie

Ucatt has accused an independent body that oversees trade unions of bias during its investigation into alleged irregularities in this year’s election of general secretary Alan Ritchie.

The Certification Office (CO), a government-appointed ombudsman, has spent the past four months looking into claims that fewer than half the union’s members received ballot papers for the June election.

This follows a complaint from the defeated candidate, Michael Dooley, whom Ucatt has since suspended for gross misconduct. Ritchie was re-elected as general secretary last summer with 6,700 votes against Dooley’s 4,500.

Your tone suggests you have made a number of assumptions about Ucatt

Alan Ritchie

Correspondence seen by Building shows that Ritchie has grown concerned about the investigation and after a terse exchange with the CO has appointed lawyers to represent the union in the matter.

In a letter dated 2 August, to Shanta Halai, CO’s operations manager, Ritchie said: “The tone and content of your correspondence to date suggests that you have made a number of assumptions about this union and the complaint against it. This suggests you are carrying out your own investigation and not acting impartially.”

In response, the CO wrote back to Ucatt on 10 August, saying Ritchie had “omitted to respond directly” to several questions about the conduct of the election.

The CO has asked the union to explain why more than 70,000 members did not receive ballots for the election. Ucatt’s website says it has more than 120,000 members but fewer than 57,000 received papers, and fewer than 12,000 voted.

Ucatt says members who did not receive papers were in arrears of subscriptions, so not entitled to vote. It added: “The CO has not started formal proceedings against Ucatt.”

The CO declined to comment and Dooley was unavailable for comment.