A recent report has revealed “endemic” levels of bullying, harassment, and cronyism inside the GMB union. With a general secretary election on the cards, rank-and-file activists need to fight to transform the union.
Imagine that you are a woman: you work; you raise your children; you may be looking after elderly parents; you have the burden of the housework. And even though you have little time left, you use it to be politically active – for example, in a union.
Imagine you fight sexism in your workplace. You fight for equal pay; for a better society, where there is no room for any form of oppression.
Imagine, then, that instead of this you experience sexism, bullying, and sexual harassment. And then imagine that you are victim to all these horrible forms of oppression within your own trade union.
Sadly, we are not talking about an imaginary scenario in a training session on safeguarding – but about a scandalous situation within the GMB.
I wouldn’t know how else to describe the findings of an independent investigation that followed a number of allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and bullying within the union.
Some of these accusations were extremely serious. The report describes the GMB as a place where “bullying, misogyny, cronyism, and sexual harassment are endemic”.
The barrister who led the investigation, Karon Monaghan, concludes her inquiry with a long series of recommendations to the GMB’s leading bodies on how to tackle these serious issues.
But we must stress: the task of carrying out a democratic transformation of our union cannot be left in the hands of people at the top. Among this layer, there may be many who either were part of this rotten regime, or who at least turned a blind eye to the wrongs taking place.
NEW: the GMB is “institutionally sexist”, says damning new report by Karon Monaghan QC
“Bullying, misogyny, cronyism + sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB”
Big moment for the union: suggests its issues are far wider/deeper than Tim Roache alone https://t.co/H3QwGZ8xg5
— Gabriel Pogrund (@Gabriel_Pogrund) September 2, 2020
This is a bureaucracy that has been accustomed to running the union in an anti-democratic manner, bullying those who “do not toe the line” (paragraph 112 of the investigation). The union is notorious for its witch-hunts against socialist members of the union.
While accusing the left of all kinds of misdemeanours, these same officials have been heavily involved in manoeuvres to block mandatory reselection in the Labour Party. They are also connected to the scandalous revelations of the leaked report, which showed how party staff worked consciously to sabotage Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader.
They accuse the left of bullying and harassment. But in reality they are the ones who use such methods. These are the same methods we have seen used in the Labour Party against Corbyn and his supporters, and against genuine socialists in general. This must end!
We need a union that is run democratically; which respects the dignity of its members and of workers in general; where no one is discriminated against; where no one is intimidated for defending socialist ideas. But to achieve this, much bolder measures are required than those suggested in Monaghan’s report.
To guarantee a real change in the union; to transform the GMB into a democratic and fighting union, we must demand:
- A member-led union, instead of having an out-of-control officialdom lording it over the membership.
- Election and right of recall of all officials.
- Officials take the average wage of the members they are supposed to represent.
Tim Roache resigned from his position as GMB general secretary earlier this year, amid allegations of improper conduct. This means an election for his replacement must follow soon. This is an excellent opportunity for left-wingers and rank-and-file activists to challenge the bureaucratic regime, starting with the top job itself.
GMB officials should be made to follow the example of Paul Holmes, the grassroots candidate in the Unison general secretary election. As we explained recently:
“Paul Holmes, has pledged not to take the £138,000 general secretary salary. Paul will remain on his worker’s wage… A union general secretary living on a worker’s wage will be far more in touch with the members than someone on £138,000 a year.”
With workers facing an onslaught on our jobs and conditions, it has never been more important that our unions are transformed into fighting organisations, capable of leading a militant struggle against the bosses.