Skip to content

#meTU reacts to latest developments in the GMB

MeTU Women has been watching with increasing alarm and concern the deteriorating situation at the GMB union. On 5 March 2024, ReelNews activist video collective which has given a platorm to #MeTU since its inception, released a video about the appalling treatment of a senior woman at the union.

Distrubingly this is part of a pattern and not an isolated incident. Last year at Women’s TUC #MeTU pointed out that there were a number of current cases of women GMB staff bringing cases of harassment or discrimination who had the tables turned against them with trumped up charges and had been, or were being, bullied out.

Since the release of the video, there has been a near constant flow of further evidence of continuing systemic bullying and harassment of women in the union; suggesting little has changed since The Monaghan Report, and that in fact, things may have got even worse.

Perhaps most worrying is the clear complicity and direct involvement of General Secretary, Gary Smith, in this toxicity and disfunction. Under his leadership it seems the union will stop at nothing to try to silence, discredit and frighten vulnerable women who report concerns including:

  • Threatening women who raise concerns with powerful, expensive lawyers like highly controversial firm, Carter Ruck.
  • Refusing to investigate allegations of sexual harassment brought to them by a senior woman.
  • Stating publicly that they did not believe the concerns and allegations raised by this woman, including repeating this in writing to all members of staff and the press.
  • Sharing highly personal phone messages from a woman who raised concerns without her consent with all Labour’s MPs in parliament.
  • Threatening and Intimidating a number of women who had reported bullying and harassment into signing Non-Disclosure Agreements despite the union having pledged to no longer use them.
  • Holding meetings with women reporters of harassment in basement hotel rooms without HR being present.
  • Carrying out an appeal hearing about one woman who alleged sexual harassment in her absence when she was off sick with workplace stress and then sacking her in her absence.
  • Victimising and suspending elected Central Executive Committee members who have spoken out.
  • Victimising women trade union reps when they have been working to organise staff over these issues.

MeTU believes women who come to us with their accounts of harassment and bullying because we know how much courage it takes to do so. Women are 5 times more likely than men to sign NDA’s, and black women are 8 times more likely. This shows how disproportionately vulnerable women are in the work place to both experience harassment, but also to be threatened into silence and the loss of their jobs when they do. The toll reporting takes on an individual when their organisation attempts to gaslight, threaten and silence them cannot be underestimated. Women reporters from the GMB have told MeTU about the trauma they have experienced, everything from suicidal thoughts and mental breakdown, to constant nose bleeds and crippling anxiety.

This leaves MeTU questioning what exactly it will take for General Secretary, Gary Smith, to be suspended? Unlike the women survivors of abuse in his union who have been suspended or sacked through processes that are neither fair or independent; Gary Smith hangs on despite:

  • Three of the seven regions in his union in dispute, with the North East and Yorks and Humberside region successfully balloting for strike action over the culture including the treatment of women colleagues in the union.
  • Past evidence coming to light that four counts of bullying and harassment against Smith were upheld by an external investigation just weeks before he successfully stood to be General Secretary. The GMB’s response to this evidence has been to attempt to undermine the process and claim the findings were false. 
  • The release of the McColgan report in Brighton which describes horrific examples of racism, bullying, misogyny and cronyism by GMB Officers, Reps and Stewards in the council Refuse Depot in the city. To date there has been no public acknowledgment or apology from the GMB for the behaviours evidenced which included lethal weapons being kept in the GMB office; nor any sign of their promised internal investigation.
  • The recordings in the film testimonies where firstly Smith is clearly heard threatening the woman who made the covert recording with expensive lawyers and ‘pointing a gun back at her’ as well as instructing another senior member of staff to push her to accept a payoff and a further recording film (FILM LiNK) in which a senior officer offers the women money to go as soon a she was suspended and admits that she would not be given an ‘open, neutral proper process’ when it came to her complaint.

Due to the courage and solidarity of balloted GMB staff in the North East Yorkshire and Humber region there has been some progress. Their list of demands, which includes bringing back Karon Monaghan to do a ‘health check’ on the union following her 2020 report, appears to have been accepted by the GMB but details remain scant. Their strike action is live. They have paused this on two of the dates set so far for further talks, but workers will be on the picket line if inadequate progress is made and the union does not stay true to its word.

All the recent survivors of bullying and harassment at the GMB, and MeTU are asking for are transparency, accountability and independent oversight; but these reasonable requests are being consistently rebuffed by the GMB. To add insult to injury for the many women still experiencing profound harms from their union, Gary Smith and other senior people at the GMB who have been complicit in the appalling actions outlined above, remain in their posts.

Just how much harm needs to be done before the GMB takes meaningful action? And exactly just how much harm are they willing to inflict on the victims of harassment, bullying and abuse, to protect their power base? In the coming weeks we will no doubt find out.

And sadly, this is not restricted to one or two rogue unions – we have a pan-union problem with senior leaders who cover for each other.

We need trade unions more than ever before, but we need trade unions that are run democratically, are safe and inclusive and which create the culture and environment where true activism, collectivism and diversity can thrive; not hierarchical cabals that exist primarily to line the pockets and egos of leaders who have become completely divorced from the values of the very movement they are paid to uphold.


This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Smash the Patriarchy on 17 May!
NEU conference agrees to support #meTU