GMB union staff call off strike over alleged sexual harassment failures

Staff at one of Britain’s biggest trade unions, the GMB, have called off a strike against their own management.

Last month, staff members in the GMB’s North East, Humber and Yorkshire region voted to take strike action from 8 April.

But with days to go, the walkout has been cancelled.

A GMB spokesperson said the strike being called off was “good news for staff and our members”.

The staff had claimed that insufficient action had been taken to implement recommendations of a report which had branded the union “institutionally sexist”.

The union, the third biggest in the UK, had asked the lawyer Karon Monaghan KC to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and the wider culture in the organisation in 2020.

Four years on, one employee in the region previously told BBC News: “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”

GMB staff had claimed a taskforce set up to carry out reforms had been disbanded, and alleged that disciplinary procedures were not being followed and their own Unite union representatives have been intimidated.

Sources have told BBC News that “a hard bargain had been struck” by the staff – who are represented by another union, Unite.

This has led to the potential return of Ms Monaghan to monitor progress and look again at the culture in the union.

Her original 2020 report had called for a “complete transformation” in the union culture, which had been a “hostile environment for women” and was host to a “bully-boy atmosphere”.

If Ms Monaghan is unavailable to re-examine progress, then she – rather than the union’s management – will be able to nominate another independent figure.

A staff working group will also monitor action taken to implement any outstanding recommendations from the original Monaghan report.

When the current general secretary Gary Smith was elected to the top union post in 2021 he promised to implement the report in full.

A GMB spokesperson told BBC News: “All sides have approached the discussions positively, addressing a wide range of issues in good faith.

“There is full commitment to continuing this dialogue and working towards a better union together.”

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