Union democracy

GMB choice cramped by rules

The election of a new General Secretary for the big general union GMB is underway. Anyone wanting to stand has until the beginning of April to obtain at least 30 branch nominations. Voting runs from the beginning of May until the beginning of June. The usual rules apply. No one seeking nominations and no one standing as a candidate is allowed to “address any meeting of any branch (including his/her own branch) or Region or Section of the Union or any meeting of any kind whether held in a workplace or elsewhere” in order to seek support. Phone canvassing, whether by landline or mobile, is not...

Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers

What kind of union do we need? There are strengths and weaknesses in our current union set-up. Union officials will often have you believe that things can only be done the way they are done, because ... well, because they have always been done that way.

We do not agree. We have several criticisms...

Don't curtail RMT democracy!

RMT activists are rightly fond of emphasising that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) is the "parliament of the union", the highest democratic assembly with supreme decision making power. The 2020 AGM obviously took place in exceptional circumstances, and was conducted on Zoom. On the first day of the...

RMT: democracy needed

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash has announced his retirement, only a year into his second term. The announcement was made during a chaotic Annual General Meeting, conducted online. Many delegates and union activists had criticised various aspects of AGM proceedings, including a decision by the union’s National Executive to curtail its length once the national lockdown had been announced, and a decision not to allow motions relating to any event later than June 2020, the date at which the AGM was initially scheduled to take place. The particular trigger for Cash's retirement was the AGM's...

GMB reform falling far short

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...

RMT CFDU group launches

A group of activists in the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT) has launched a “Campaign for a Fighting, Democratic Union” (CFDU), which “fights for rank-and-file democracy and militant industrial strategies.” The CFDU name has been used by a number of previous similar initiatives in the union. This latest initiative has been launched in response to a burgeoning democratic crisis inside the union, which has seen General Secretary Mick Cash use official union communication channels to attack the lay National Executive Committee, and then refuse to carry out his...

NEU conference: support amendments!

The National Education Union (NEU) is holding a virtual conference on 3 October. The union’s annual conference in April 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis. The virtual conference will deal with rule changes. Most of them are benign. Some, such as the possibility of job-sharing elected roles, are probably positive. However, the ones reducing the Executive from 70 to 55, and allowing the General Secretaries to extend their term in office beyond five years if they announce they are retiring, should be opposed. Unfortunately, it seems the rule changes will be taken as a job lot, making...

Democracy in the labour movement

Workers' Liberty activists in the Unison public services union have decided to support Paul Holmes in the coming general secretary election (ballot 28 October to 27 November). They also urge Holmes to demand prompt investigation by his employer into the (undisclosed) allegations on which it has suspended him, and by Unison into the (undisclosed, apparently different) allegations on which it too has suspended him. Suspension from the union doesn't block Holmes from running. But here, as increasingly across the whole labour movement, rules or customs which block suspended activists from speaking...

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