Inquiry finds GMB Union ‘institutionally sexist’

A leading barrister has labelled one of the UK’s largest trade unions, GMB Union ‘institutionally sexist,’ leading to an inquiry into the culture of the union.

Karon Monagan QC stated that GMB needs a fundamental change. Throughout the union’s ranks women are underrepresented. Some branches have become organised so that women are deterred from participation.

When addressing the policies of the union Ms Monagan said that they were not sufficiently clear or robust.

Earlier this year former general secretary Tim Roache stood down after anonymous allegations were made against him concerning sexual misconduct.

The inquiry into the culture of the union was launched even though Roache said that the allegations were ‘entirely made up.’

In Ms Monagan’s report she stated that endemic in the GMB are bullying, misogyny, cronyism, and sexual harassment.

After the union’s national president Barbara Plant received an anonymous letter by concerned members of staff the report was launched to investigate complaints about the mishandling of harassment and assault.

The GMB culture is that of heavy drinking, late-night socialising, and salacious gossip. There is a complete lack of professionalism in the organisation.

The report went on to say that the union is ‘institutionally sexist.’ All the regional and general secretaries are – and always have been – men.

More than 150 people contacted Ms Monagan so that they could provide evidence for the investigation. Of the 39 people interviewed, three of them were former general secretaries.

The report revealed that examples of harassment included inappropriate comments on members’ body shape and clothing, ‘sloppy kisses’ and leering. Sticking a tongue into a woman’s ear and inappropriate touching were other forms of harassment.

Ms Monagan wrote that she had been told of more serious sexual assaults, with one witness stating that ‘you could expect to be groped at events.’

The report concluded by making 27 recommendations to improve the culture of the GMB. These included increasing representation of women at every level and introducing a new bespoke complaints procedure for any sexual harassment.

Other recommendations were that the HR department was strengthened at the national office and sexual harassment refresher training was introduced for all employees. There should also be an annual equalities audit.

Considering that the union is supposed to represent staff who are harassed or bullied in their workplaces it is very embarrassing that they have not put their own house in order.

GMB national president Barbara Plant said that the report ‘made her sad.’ It made difficult reading and on behalf of the union Ms Plant apologised to all people who had been sexually harassed or bullied.

Ms Plant stated that it was clear that a real and lasting change was needed if the union was to become an inclusive and safe place to work.

‘Working with the Central Executive Council, GMB will now act on the recommendations of the report.’

Ms Plant concluded by saying that GMB is committed to achieving this ‘transformational change.’

With the upcoming election of a new general secretary the union now has an opportunity to deliver what the executive committee is promising, namely a transformational change.


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