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UNISON v Kelly & Ors - Trade union officials and unjustified disciplinary action [2012] EAT

A trade union can only justifiably discipline its members or officials for reasons within sections 64 and 65 TULR(C)A 1992. To discipline officials ostensibly for causing unintended offence, when the real reason appeared to be that those officials had criticised the Standing Orders Committee, was completely unjustified - provided they act in good faith, union members are protected in criticising their own unions for failing to follow its own rules. 

Protesting against the omission of certain matters from the National Delegate Conference agenda, 4 trade union officials designed and circulated a leaflet, which depicted the "three wise monkeys" and challenged the Standing Orders Committee's (SOC's) actions. None intended it to be offensive in anyway, but Unison received complaints that the leaflet was racist. As a result, Unison's National Executive Committee (NEC) conducted an investigation and the 4 officials faced disciplinary proceedings. The matter was regarded as being far more serious than an unintentional causing of offence, and each official was banned from holding office in the union for three to five years.

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