GMB staff to strike over sex harassment claimson March 21, 2024 at 7:44 pm

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Employees claim reforms recommended by an independent lawyer-led review are yet to take place.

GMB picket sign in HuddersfieldImage source, EPA

Staff at one of Britain’s biggest trade unions, the GMB, have voted to strike over claims the organisation has failed to act on a report which branded it “institutionally sexist”.

Karon Monaghan KC was called in to investigate sexual harassment in the GMB in 2020.

Employees in the North East say promised reforms have not materialised.

A GMB spokesperson said they were committed to listening to staff.

The Monaghan investigation began after the abrupt resignation of the then-General Secretary Tim Roache.

She concluded that “bullying, misogyny, cronyism, and sexual harassment were endemic” in the union.

Her report found there was a “bully-boy atmosphere”, describing the union as a “hostile environment” for women, and said a “complete transformation” in culture and practices was required.

When Gary Smith was elected General Secretary in 2021, he promised to implement the recommendations of the Monaghan Report in full.

But almost three years later, GMB staff in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber (NEYH) region claim progress has stalled, with a taskforce set up to carry out reforms being disbanded.

Dozens of GMB employees – who are themselves represented by the Unite union – have now overwhelmingly backed industrial action.

They also allege that disciplinary procedures are not being followed and their own Unite union representatives have been intimidated.

“Enough is enough,” one employee in the region told the BBC, adding: “We were all promised after the Monaghan report that the horrendous culture of sexism and outright misogyny within GMB would be tackled, yet we’ve gone backwards.

“More and more of the staff are sharing their stories of harassment.

“We’ve therefore been left with no choice to ballot to take this action to force the hands of those in charge to bring back Karon Monaghan or another trusted TUC advisor to properly and crucially independently throw a light on what’s happening within the union.”

A Unite spokesperson said: “We can confirm that our members within the GMB’s North East, Yorkshire and Humber region have voted for industrial action following a ballot over allegations which include failure to implement the recommendations of the Monaghan Report and other concerns from staff including women.”

‘Committed to listening’

GMB said they hadn’t received any notification from Unite and that they were committed to listening to staff.

A GMB Spokesperson said: “GMB has not received any notification or information from Unite about this. “We have been involved in an ongoing dialogue with them on issues specific to the Yorkshire area, but these were put on hold as the Unite representative informed us they are on leave until 25th March.

“We are committed to listening to our staff and are available at any time for discussions to seek a suitable resolution to matters.”

The GMB is the UK’s third-largest trade union, with more than half a million members and is a major donor to the Labour party.

Karon Monaghan’s recommendations to the GMB included treating sexual harassment as a serious disciplinary offence, ensuring harassment claims were not interfered with, and increasing representation of women at all levels of the organisation.

She also advised the union to ask the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to monitor their efforts to make changes.

At a meeting of trades union leaders earlier this month, it is understood the TUC General Secretary Paul Novak said he was keen to meet the leadership of the GMB to discuss progress on implementing the Monaghan recommendations.

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