Concerns regarding Society of Labour Lawyers Executive Committee co-option process

I wrote here about my efforts to improve the culture, governance and running of the Society of Labour Lawyers (SLL), including about SLL’s working group on governance and diversity, which was set up in October 2020 and then shut down in January 2021.

One practical area where the approach of SLL has been concerning is in relation to the co-option process for the SLL Executive Committe. I have a number of concerns regarding this process. I asked for these to be discussed at the last SLL Executive Committee meeting, providing the requisite 7 days notice. However, the Chair of SLL, Kate O’Rourke, made a chair’s ruling that they should not be discussed. I therefore set out my concerns below, as I believe it is important that these are addressed. Given these concerns, there is a question of whether there needs to be greater oversight of the Officers by the SLL Executive Committee in relations to the co-option process.

  • It was agreed at the February 2021 SLL Executive Committee meeting that applications for the roles of Membership Officer, Equality Officer and Website and Social Media Officer would be opened to all members through co-option to the Executive Committee. It was not agreed that there sould be a more general co-uption process for 6 executive committee places and that these be assessed collectively, as happened. This mean that the best candidate for each of those roles might not be have been appointed and the appointment process does not seem to have assessed the candidates against the specific roles that were supposed to be recruited for.
  • As part of the application process, information on protected characteristics was collected from applicants. This included information on whether applicants were women, LGBT+, BAME or disabled. It was not explained at the point of collection how this information was to be used and it appears that it may have not been anonymised before being shared with the administrator/SLL officers. I have asked for the SLL officers clarification on this point but have not received this. The SLL Governance and Diversity Working Group had workstreams on reviewing SLL’s approach to data protection and developing processes for collecting data on protected characteristics. However, as mentioned above, the working group was shut down in January 2021 and it is not clear how these issues are being taken forward.
  • The officers have told me that the data on protected characteristics was used to “overall picture of the diversity of applicants and the nominees for co-option”. It is not clear what this means in practice and I am not aware of any report or similar on this being provided to the SLL Executive Committee or SLL Equality Committee.
  • Applications for co-option were scored 0-10 each in relation to the following four criteria so that there was a total score out of 40: actual and potential contribution to the Society; contribution to the Labour Party; quality of the statement; resident/not resident in London. The approach, and in particular the inclusion of “quality of the statement” as one of the criteria, is perplexing, as more usually the information collected about the candidates (e.g. from statements/interviews) would be assessed against a competency framework.
  • In the past, candidate statements from all applicants for co-option have been circulated to the entire SLL Executive Committee but this was not done for the 2021 co-options.

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