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GMB women letter to Yorks and Humber region

This letter from the GMB Women group highlights ongoing issues of bullying and harassment within the union, especially targeting women members. It calls for solidarity to address these problems and reinstate suspended members.

Colleagues, sisters, and brothers,

We are reaching out to highlight and seek your support with the on-going and deteriorating culture of bullying and harassment that is gripping our union, most intensely towards the GMB’s Northeast Yorkshire & Humber (NEYH) Region.

We now need to let you know that NEYH Regional President and other Central Executive Council (CEC) members that you elected to represent you and your members have been suspended by the National President on the wishes of the Senior Management Team (SMT) and Gary Smith (General Secretary). Only the CEC, REC and Regional Council have the authority under rule to suspend a member. We do not consider these suspensions valid or having been done according to rule.

Some of you may have seen various newspaper and social media communications referring to an industrial action ballot that is underway regarding our regions GMB staff and officers, this is in relation to a deteriorating culture of bullying and harassment from the GMB’s SMT, led by Gary Smith. For staff to vote to take industrial action by such numbers (96% mandate for strike) shows how very serious the situation has become. Sadly, that culture of bullying has now spread from paid staff to lay members.

One of the triggers for this ballot was over the abuse of power and process for women staff members in the region- driven by the General Secretary and the SMT. In a breach of union agreements and fair process SMT have reopened investigations into staff that had previously been resolved. They have done so behind the backs of staff representatives and consequently, CEC members have had to withdraw from the process citing abuse of power.

Articles circulating on social media also refer to the fact that the ever-growing SMT are grossly overspending on highly paid officers (Grade 11) and that a steady stream of paid female officials have disappeared with settlement agreements (containing gagging clauses) since Gary Smith took office. They also refer to SMT interference in the CEC’s democratic processes and rights and the fact that this is in breach of the Monaghan report. This report, which rightly called out the misogyny in the union, contains 27 recommendations, which everyone was all assured would be implemented in its entirety when the current General Secretary came into office and something that your elected Regional Executive and CEC members have fought tooth and nail for at every opportunity.  

Sadly, the articles are correct and the working groups that were set up to oversee the implementation of those recommendations have been disbanded. As if to underpin this, a new Barrister, again paid for by the SMT, was brought into the governing body CEC meeting just last week who told all attendees that the Monaghan report was ‘only guidance’. This is blatantly against the union’s public declaration of full commitment to implementing all the report’s recommendations.

The Barrister instructed by the National President to hear the complaints has been hand selected by those whom she is being instructed to investigate. The Barrister instructed by the National President is already engaged by the GMB on another live case. This Barrister was recommended to the GMB by Pattison and Brewer Law firm. The GMB Head of Legal is a partner at Pattison & Brewer Law firm. Pattison and Brewer are not neutral, they have a commercial interest in GMB, especially with the demise of Unionline. Using handpicked lawyers, already contracted to work on GMB cases the Senior Management Team are, in effect, marking their own homework.

The General Secretary has written to staff and told them to ignore these media stories and rumours, but the truth is that CEC members and staff have been subjected to this bullying regime when they have tried to challenge the SMT in their capacity as CEC members and although no one is fully aware of all the detail that has caused the staff dispute, we know that the NEYH Regional Secretary has also tried to challenge various SMT decisions and has now been missing since late last year.

It’s become increasingly obvious that the Regional Secretary has been suspended, what’s more; shortly after an interim RS was brought in to cover her role over a quarter of a million pounds was taken from an already cut regional budget on the orders of Gary Smith to balance his vastly overspent Head Office books.

We know that some of your elected lay members have now been suspended from their leadership roles. To date there are 3 suspended CEC members from NEYH but we are aware others are now coming under intense pressure to sign legally binding gagging orders (despite the union claiming that they would never use gagging orders again) and suspect they too will be suspended if they continue to refuse.

Sadly, you won’t be surprised to hear that in all cases bar one, all are women. We should add, and are appalled to have to do so, that one of those women on  the CEC that is suspended has been off sick with a mental health breakdown since November 2023, she has not been answering her emails for obvious reasons during this time and yet was suspended for not answering an email from the GMB’s head of HR. When did lay members not answering emails become a disciplinary offence? Why did the Head of HR wait two weeks after the CEC members hadn’t replied to then suspend them… only a few days before a crucial CEC meeting?

This we believe was done for political reasons to reduce the representation of the NEYH Region on the CEC and to head off any challenges regarding the way the General Secretary and members of the SMT have had a hand in selecting the lawyers chosen to investigate complaints against them. Such a blatant breach of both due process and equality law will now be formally raised with the Certification Officer, who as our regulator we have no doubt will take the matter extremely seriously.

We are writing to you now because bullies get away with their behaviour by frightening and silencing people. We are asking you to support a campaign to defend your Regions national representatives and demand that the General Secretary and his new army of highly paid officials stop their bullying, reinstate your Regional President, CEC members, and that any processes affecting SMT members are overseen by lawyers engaged by the CEC who we can have confidence in are not already professionally or commercially linked to those they are being asked to investigate. We are sure you will support your paid staff and officers too as they progress to a full industrial action ballot this week on the back of a 96% vote in favour of doing so.

The GMB is a great trade union, it belongs to its members not the SMT. This unprecedented attack on hard working members could happen to every single one of us and demonstrates a toxic culture that must not go unchecked. Those of us fighting to expose abuse of process and disregard for our rule book need your support. Please pledge your solidarity to expose what is becoming a blatant cover up.

GMB Sisters

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