DRAFT: ELECTION ADDRESS FOR THE GMB GENERAL SECRETARY ELECTION 2015
Candidate's Name: Keith Henderson
What is this election all about?
I believe this election must be about change and I fully understand that any change is always initially resisted. It’s natural to be more comfortable with the familiar rather than the unknown. However change is our constant companion and those who don’t recognise this reality will be left behind. That’s the motivation behind why I am standing in this election for General Secretary.
However you analyse the facts the trade union movement has been in decline for the last three decades. Whatever political beliefs you hold it can’t be denied that under the last Labour administrations millions of jobs were created and the best we could do was stem the rate of decline in organised memberships. Yes, thankfully, there have been success stories along the way but the overall picture is a negative one.
Now once again working people are under severe and sustained attack on all fronts; terms and conditions, pensions, NHS, higher and Further education, housing and transport costs, increasing energy bills, hospital and library closures, out-sourcing and the miserable list goes on.
We are in the third biggest trade union in the country at a time where we are in midst of the worst times that most of us have ever experienced and yet we seem unable to take advantage of people’s anger and build effective opposition based on organising broad based fight backs in the workplace and the community.
If we fail to project a vision outside of our diminishing strongholds we will become ineffectual bystanders, heckling from the side lines while others struggle to take on the corporate and financial elite that are squeezing out all those gains that past generations of trade unionists struggled to win in the pursuit of a better, more enlightened, more fulfilling existence, lived in a socially and economically just society.
That simply is why I am standing in this election for General Secretary is to ensure we secure these goals.
Where Power Resides In Our Union
The GMB operates a bureaucratic centralist regime that concentrates power in the offices of the Regional Secretaries.
At present regional Secretaries are appointed by Regional Committees and once in office they are there for life.
Regional Secretaries are given ascendancy over branches by dint of the rule that they are able to close and open branches. This rule can and has been used to effectively allow only those who support the status quo to progress through the union’s structures i.e. Branch, Regional Council, Regional Committee as well as election to attend Congress. The distortions created by this bureaucratic dictatorial approach fundamentally undermines the relevance of the branch.
The power that unelected Regional Secretaries have over the active membership of the union is unhealthy and is a recipe for an officially sanctioned autocracy.
Criticism of the present power structure is not necessarily a criticism of the individuals who occupy these positions. However the manner in which people conduct themselves in these powerful offices is often too reliant on individual character and personality which often proves to be too much of a challenge especially as there is no democratic accountability to the general membership through the ballot box.
So how to address this issue? Well I believe we need to give power back to the members because through power comes the ability to make effective decisions, hold office holders to account and to bring necessary changes. If that objective is achieved members will see a purpose in active membership.
We should be a bottom up organisation not a top down institution. Most trade unionists would agree with that objective – but how to achieve it?
Giving More Powers Back To Branches
• All Branches should get automatically 15% of the Branch's overall income every three months in advance.
• All Branches Should be able to apply for further funding from the CEC by drawing up 5 years organising plans for their localities.
• Once the plan is registered the CEC would release a further 10% of the Branch's income (making in total 25%) going back to the Branch.
• Introducing the position of Branch Treasurer.
• If the Branch membership wishes to engage a full time Branch Organiser they could appoint only by competitive interview by the Branch Committee and once a Branch Organiser has been appointed he or she must face an election of the Branch's membership within the first year of the appointment.
• The Branch Organiser's post will be up for re-election every two years at the Branch's AGM.
• All Branches would receive a political fund that would be 50% of the Branch's political levy payers.
• The Branch would elect a lay member as Political Officer to oversee all political activity.
Membership responsibility and office holders accountability
To make the union a bottom up organisation and not a top down institution requires some fundamental changes to the present structure:
• Regional Secretaries would be subject to a direct ballot of the Regional membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 12 Branches within the same region.
• Introducing the position of Regional Treasurer, the Regional Treasurer will be subject to a direct ballot of the Regional membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 10 Branches within the same region.
• Regional Organisers can be appointed only by competitive interview by the Regional Committee and once he or she has been appointed they must face an election of the regional membership within their second year of appointment, there will be the right of recall.
• Regional Committee Members would be subject to a direct ballot of the Regional membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 3 Branches within the same region.
• Regional Council Members would be subject to a direct ballot of the Regional membership every 4 years and candidates will only need to be nominated by the Branch they are a member of.
• Branches being able to elect one delegate directly to Congress for every 1000 members they have.
• Branches of any size being able to send at least two motions directly to Congress.
• Reintroducing the position of Deputy General Secretary, the Deputy General Secretary would be subject to a direct ballot of the entire membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 25 Branches.
• Splitting the positions of General Secretary and National Treasurer, the National Treasurer would be subject to a direct ballot of the entire membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 25 Branches.
• The General Secretary would be subject to a direct ballot of the entire membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 30 Branches.
• National Organisers can be appointed only by competitive interview by the CEC and once he or she has been appointed they must face an election of the entire membership within their second year of appointment, there will be the right of recall.
• CEC Members would be subject to a direct ballot of the entire membership every 4 years and candidates will need to be nominated by 5 Branches.
• There will be a right of recall on all elected positions.
• The Union’s decision making Congress would be held every year.
In order to maintain the ascendancy of the membership a 4 year cycle of elections would be held with the CEC being elected in the first year, the Deputy General Secretary and National Treasurer in the second, the General Secretary in the third, Regional Treasurers, Regional Secretaries, Regional Council Members and the Regional Committee Members in the fourth.
The purpose of this proposed structure would be to make sure there is accountability to the membership.
The Congress would remain as the Union’s prime decision making body but would become much more vibrant with this and other changes.
The difference would be felt in that the direct democratic elections for all posts and the 4 year terms and the right of recall of all posts would ensure accountability.
What we do wrong we must put right
I will put these issues right, if I am elected as your General Secretary,
• Emails/letters and telephone calls go unanswered.
• Members to often get refused legal representation.
• Many members going without union representation at disciplinary, grievance and appeals hearings with management.
• Union members money being spent by full time officials without any accountability to the membership.
I am now a member of the union not an official
I was employed by the GMB London Region as a Regional Organiser from 06/11/2009 until 07/12/2012 and I was a Branch Secretary before that, and I have been in active GMB membership for over 10 years.
I am a left wing democratic Socialist and I have been an active member of the Labour and trade union movement for over 10 years generally and the GMB in particular.
I have held many positions within the GMB London Region over the last 10 years from being a Shop Steward, Health and Safety Rep, Branch Youth Officer, President of the GMB Young Members Committee, Accompanying Rep, Congress Delegate, GMB Delegate to Labour Party Regional Conference, GMB Delegate to the Regional TULO Committee, Branch Secretary, Member of the GMB Central London Team, Servicing Officer, Regional Organiser.
Unfortunately, after all the hard work I have done both, as a lay official and full time employee of the union, I ran into problems following a falling out with our General Secretary, Paul Kenny. This was over carrying out the instructions of the members of the house of commons branch. There was a unanimous vote of the members to put on picket lines of parliament on November 30th 2011 asking Labour MP's to respect GMB picket lines.
I was later dismissed from the union and the Watford Employment Tribunal found while the principal reason for my dismissal was conduct, but, the tribunal was also of the view that I had established to their satisfaction that a substantial part of the reasoning behind my dismissal was my philosophical beliefs (left wing democratic Socialism) and was an effective cause of my dismissal.
The tribunal also found that I have been subjected to harassment because of my philosophical beliefs (left wing democratic Socialism) one of the acts of harassment was Paul Kenny shouting at me over the picket lines on parliament issue.
I have proven that the current leadership of the GMB union did discriminate and harassed me because of my philosophical beliefs of left wing democratic socialism.
One of the main reasons I am standing in this election is to end discrimination against our members in their workplaces, but, I cannot do this until I have ended the discrimination that goes on in our union by the current leadership.
I am committed to all the policies above and the ones in the manifesto that I am supporting, and I can confirm that I am committed to only taking the wage of an average skilled worker unlike our current General Secretary who pays himself out of union members money (your money) a salary of over £130, 000,00 per year.
Please check out the Grassroots Left website for the full manifesto that I am supporting.
My Email: email@example.com