An independent body that oversees trade unions is looking into allegations of irregularities during the election of Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie last year, writes Michael Glackin.

The certification officer, an independent ombudsman appointed by the government, has given Ucatt three weeks to respond to allegations that are understood to centre on claims that less than half the union’s membership received ballot papers for the June election.

The Electoral Reform Society gave the ballot an entirely clean bill of health

Ucatt spokesperson

Ucatt had until Wednesday this week to respond to the allegations and supply detailed information about the election to the certification officer.

Gerard Walker, assistant certification officer, confirmed that his office was making enquiries at Ucatt but refused to discuss the nature of the allegations.

He said: “We have received a complaint which has been put to the union and we are awaiting a reply this week.”

It is understood he is seeking clarification over how many ballot papers were sent out. Ucatt’s website states its total membership is more than 120,000 but it is understood that fewer than 52,000 members received ballot papers and that fewer than 12,000 voted.

The certification officer has the power to establish a public tribunal to investigate the allegations further and can take enforcement action against Ucatt if it finds the union at fault.

A Ucatt spokesperson said:

“The ballot was conducted under the auspices of an outside organisation, the Electoral Reform Society, and it gave the ballot an entirely clean bill of health. Ucatt is refuting every charge fully and vigorously.”

Ritchie was re-elected as general secretary last summer, defeating Michael Dooley. Ritchie won with 6,700 votes against Dooley’s 4,500.