GMB reform falling far short

Submitted by AWL on 10 November, 2020 - 7:43 Author: Ann Field
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Warren Kenny, London Regional Secretary of the GMB union, will take over as the union’s Acting General Secretary (AGS) on 16 November.

Tim Roache, re-elected General Secretary last November, resigned in April. A subsequent investigation into the GMB, conducted by Karon Monaghan QC, found that bullying, cronyism, misogyny, sexual harassment and untrammelled bureaucratic diktat were rife in the union.

Wales and South-West Regional Secretary John Phillips was appointed AGS in place of Roache. But Phillips is retiring next month. Hence the appointment of a new AGS, pending the outcome of the General Secretary election to be held next year.

Warren Kenny is the son of Paul Kenny, who was GMB General Secretary from 2005 to 2015. Some have suggested that the gameplan is for Kenny and his faction in the GMB bureaucracy to back Scottish Regional Secretary Gary Smith in next year’s election, and then for Kenny to take over from Smith in the subsequent election.

Readers of LabourList will be aware that Smith will be standing against Rehana Azam, the GMB’s Public Services National Officer.

This would not be a right-left contest, but mostly two factions of the bureaucracy competing for the spoils of office. It suggests a growing failure to push through the changes needed to democratise the GMB.

The GMB Central Executive Council has begun to assert itself since the publication of Monaghan’s report. But nowhere near enough.

The undemocratic rule change pushed through the 2019 GMB conference, for example, which nearly doubled the number of branch nominations needed to get on the ballot paper in a General Secretary contest, will remain in force for next year’s election.

That shuts down the possibility of a rank-and-file candidate standing — the purpose of the rule change — and reduces the election to a choice of two bureaucrats (or maybe three: Kathleen Walker-Shaw may stand again).

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