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Sisters Betrayed: The Ongoing Crisis of Misogyny and Abuse in UK Trade Unions

As revelations of systemic misogyny and abuse in prominent UK trade unions expose the corrupt old boys' networks still clinging to power, sisters betrayed by false promises of reform continue their brave struggle for gender equality from below.

The transport union TSSA and the general union GMB have both been rocked by revelations of systemic misogyny, bullying, and sexual harassment over the past year. Independent reports exposed rot at the highest levels, leading to leadership changes. However, recent developments show the new leaders are failing women members yet again.

At TSSA, the workforce has declared a dispute barely three months into new General Secretary Maryam Eslamdoust’s tenure. They cite a “continuing culture of intimidation and bullying” and “corner-cutting and cronyism.” The courageous women’s group Women in Focus, which helped expose TSSA’s nefariousness, has now been derecognised in a suspicious move by the union’s Executive Committee. An “EC-organised” women’s group has emerged in its place, suspiciously populated with cronies of disgraced former GS Manuel Cortes.

Meanwhile, at GMB, little has changed despite an independent report condemning its “institutionally sexist” culture. Sisters describe the supposed reforms as “mythical,” with some areas now “much worse” for women. A shocking new report has uncovered violence, death threats, and extreme misogynistic harassment at a GMB-represented workplace. Yet the union’s knee-jerk response was defensive and dismissive, even doubting the 70+ whistleblower testimonies.

These developments confirm our worst fears: that corrupt male power networks (and their enablers) still reign supreme in key unions, blocking progress through cronyism, intimidation, and abuse. Sisters who fight back are betrayed, while new leaders pay lip service to change. Structural misogyny remains firmly entrenched.

As revolutionary Marxists, we stand unconditionally with all workers facing oppression. Capitalist bosses exploit sexist divisions to undermine solidarity, but workers’ power relies on unity. Trade unions must nurture women’s structures that can confront patriarchal power from below. Crony male bureaucrats who cling to privilege have no place in a progressive, member-led movement. Sisters deserve nothing less than full gender equality at every level of the workers’ organisation.

We applaud the brave women and whistleblowers fighting endemic abuse at TSSA and GMB. You inspire us all to keep struggling. When you fight, you are fighting for every worker. United, we can consign these rotten old boys’ clubs to the dustbin of history where they belong. An injury to one is an injury to all! Solidarity forever!

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