A tribunal has today been asked to make an enforcement order "forthwith" to prevent Chris Keates being in post as leader of the NASUWT teaching union.
Richard Harris, former regional organiser at the union, told a hearing at the Certification Office, in Fleet Street, central London, that Ms Keates had breached trade union law by being in post longer than five years without standing for re-election.
He said the union’s senior members had been informed almost a year before of the need to hold an election but had failed to do so.
He said: “It is absurd that an organisation that focuses on employment and trade union law had a failure of understanding of this.”
NASUWT leadership dispute
The union’s former Northern Ireland president, Susan Parlour, who brought the complaint, criticised the fact that Ms Keates had been made “acting general secretary”.
She said: “You can cannot act up for yourself. For example, I’m head of English and when I was off someone came in for me and acted as me – I did not act for myself.
"If someone was to act up perhaps it should have been the deputy general secretary.
“She has rebranded herself and is doing the same job and is doing the same function she did, and she has simply relabelled herself."
Acting for the union, Stuart Brittenden QC said the union admitted the breach, but that Ms Keates had officially “stood down” shortly afterwards and at a meeting on 5 July she became "acting general secretary".
Arguing against an enforcement order, he said case law recognised that there was "a difference between holding a post and acting in a post".
He said: “The key question is whether the union genuinely considers whether Chris Keates is acting on a temporary basis and, if it does, this is not a sham, but a temporary arrangement.”
Certification Officer Sarah Bedwell said she would make a decision within three weeks.
Any penalty for the breach would not be financial, but there could be a declaration on the Certification Office website and possibly an enforcement order to remedy it.
The union has declined to comment on the matter. Chris Keates is not attending the meeting.