Union democracy

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...

GMB: democracy vs Regional Secretaries

The GMB union is institutionally sexist. There is gender-based job discrimination. Branches are male-dominated, with deliberately engineered limits on female participation. And bullying, misogyny, cronyism, and sexual harassment are endemic in the union. That is the conclusion of Karon Monaghan QC’s report on her investigation into the GMB, commissioned by its Central Executive Council (CEC) in late April, and published on 2 September. Monaghan’s remit was to investigate the GMB’s record on responding to complaints of sexual harassment, assess the effectiveness (or otherwise) of GMB policies...

Factory gate meeting

Unite members working for Great Bear distribution recently organised a factory gate meeting at the Unilever Port Sunlight factory to protest at the dismissal of a Unite shop steward and the company’s refusal to pay full sick pay for workers self-isolating. The meeting, organised by Unite North West, showed how protests and workplace meetings can still be organised safely and effectively. Everyone observed social distancing rules. When the organisers were explaining why the meeting took place, they made sure that they explained to local residents who were watching and listening why the meeting...

Tim Roache and the cabal system

On Tuesday 28 April, Tim Roache, general secretary of the big GMB union, which organises in many different sectors, stepped down, just months after his re-election. He cited ill-health. On Wednesday, following the circulation of an anonymous letter to press outlets, GMB issued a statement: “GMB received an anonymous letter, last Wednesday, in which a number of allegations have been made about Tim’s conduct whilst he held the office of general secretary.” The news of the allegations against Roach has reignited discussion of conduct in the labour movement, echoing previous incidents including...

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