GMB: lay democracy still needed

Submitted by martin on 16 March, 2021 - 4:31 Author: Dale Street
GMB

As of 10 March 2021, and until 17 April, GMB branches can nominate candidates to stand for election as the union’s General Secretary. To get onto the ballot paper, candidates need to obtain at least 30 branch nominations from at least two GMB Regions. Voting will be between 12 May and 2 June.

The election was triggered by the resignation of the incumbent Tim Roache last year, following allegations of sexual harassment.

A subsequent investigation, the Monaghan Report https://www.workersliberty.org/story/2020-09-09/gmb-democracy-vs-regional-secretaries, found that the GMB was rotten to the core: sexual harassment, sex discrimination and bullying were rife; the union was run by and for the bureaucracy (especially Regional Secretaries); and the union’s lay structures were largely moribund.

Three GMB full-timers are seeking the nominations needed to get onto the ballot paper.

Representing the main factions of the GMB bureaucracy are Scottish Regional Secretary Gary Smith and Public Services National Secretary Rehana Azam.

The Monaghan Report identified the Senior Management Team (SMT) as something akin to the root of all evil in the GMB: This was the mechanism through which the Regional Secretaries exercised their dictatorship over the GMB.

Smith has been a member of the SMT since 2015. He has never uttered a word of criticism of how it functioned.

In his election statement Smith provides one quote from the Monaghan Report: "If the GMB is to change it must want to do so. It will take robust and committed leadership to successfully push this through." Smith presents himself as the leader who will do that.

But Smith is so consumed by his own ego that he fails to understand that when Monaghan refers to "leadership", she means collective lay leadership: "The GMB is unlikely to achieve this change unless the lay bodies discharge their leadership duties and responsibilities."

Smith also ignores the paragraph immediately following his quotation. In that paragraph Monaghan denounces the power and control wielded by Regional Secretaries. One of whom, since 2015, has, of course, been Smith.

A different faction of the GMB bureaucracy is backing Rehana Azam, the GMB’s former National Officer for Equalities – in which capacity she seemed to fail to notice the rampant misogynistic culture exposed in the Monaghan Report.

Like Smith, Azam presents herself in her election statement as a saviour from on high, boasting of the miracles she has wrought during her stint as the union’s Public Services Officer.

In 2020 she secured, apparently single-handed, a £2.4 billion win for public sector pensions, in 2016 she ended, all by herself, the public sector pay freeze with a 14.6% pay rise for the lowest paid, and in 2014 she organised the biggest NHS strike since the 1970s.

The third candidate seeking to get onto the ballot paper is Giovanna Holt, the union’s Senior Organiser for the North-West and Ireland. Her election statement is largely a mixture of the bland and the innocuous, plus the obligatory list of various great achievements.

None of the candidates merits a supporting nomination from branches.

They are candidates of (different factions of) the bureaucracy. None of them understand that the core of the Monaghan Report is about the GMB membership taking back control of the union, and none of them stand for that lay-membership-control.

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