On Friday 17 March, an Employment Appeal Tribunal judge overturned the decision of the Certification Officer to reject a complaint against the GMB bureaucracy, brought by GMB member Keith Henderson.
Keith had complained that a misinterpretation and misapplication of the rules had prevented him or any other rank-and-file member from standing in the 2015 GMB General Secretary election. Among other things he claimed by-law 13 had been misinterpreted and misapplied to prevent potential nominees from contacting branches to seek nomination.
To become a candidate it was necessary to obtain the backing of 30 of the 968 GMB branches. Keith has stated publicly his belief that the GMB general secretary election of 2015 was a bureaucratic stitch up of monumental proportions. The figures themselves tell a story. The election was won by one of the two unelected Regional Secretaries who were contesting it. Tim Roach won with the backing of 2.4 per cent of GMB members in an election that saw a 4.4 per cent turnout.
The misapplication of rules and by-laws preventing rank and file members contacting branches must have had something to do with this. But despite the fact that there was something clearly wrong the Certification Officer chose to accept the technical case put by the GMB’s QC, employed using GMB members’ money. Keith’s claim was rejected on a legal technicality. However on appeal the Certification Officers decision was set aside and a damning judgement against the GMB bureaucracy was made. A judgement that has implications both in the GMB and the wider labour movement.
In breaching their own by-laws governing the election, the GMB bureaucracy had also breached section 47.1 of Trade Union and Labour Relations (TULR) (Consolidation) Act 1992. They had prevented GMB members from participating in the general secretary election in their own union. Keith was awarded a Declaration. The decision has given ordinary GMB members an opportunity to join together and organise to take back power from the unelected, barely elected, and crookedly elected bureaucrats who have usurped power and currently run the union. It is now vital that a grassroots left organisation is built to democratise and radicalise the GMB.
Devolving power and moving resources away from a national and regional level to a branch and workplace level, away from unelected national and regional officers to elected shop stewards and branch officers. No more dodgy sweetheart deals with employers behind the backs of the members and bending the knee to the management to protect those deals. An end to nepotism and cronyism and running the union as if it were a family business or a plc. Aim to rebuild the stewards movement in every industry that the GMB organises in.
This decision has potentially the widest implications and holds the most significant opportunities for the left since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as Labour leader. The GMB Grassroots Left has been set up to challenge the GMB unelected or barely elected leadership on behalf of GMB members.
• This was written by a GMB Grassroots Left member, we invite responses and discussion on the issues raised in it.