24/02/2015 by socialistfight
Keith Henderson has announced that he will be seeking nominations for the General Secretary election of the General Municipal and Boilermakers union (GMB Union) which is scheduled to take place this year according to the current GMB rule book.
Under current rules the nomination process is due to commence after the Central executive committee meeting in April 2015. Under current union rules it is believed that the General Secretary Paul Kenny will not be able to stand as he has reached retirement age last year in October. Under the rules for the last General Secretary election in 2010 candidates were required to be nominated by thirty branches to get onto the ballot paper.
Keith is a member of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the Grassroots Left (GRL) and a former regional officer of the GMB London Region. He was dismissed from his employment of the GMB in December 2012 following his actions in carrying out the wishes of the members. He had organised a picket of parliament on the day of action in the public sector pensions dispute on 30th November 2011.
This followed a democratic decision of the GMB members employed in the House of Commons who had voted to take strike action on that day and who had also voted to organise picket lines on the houses of parliament on the day of the strike. Paul Kenny, the General Secretary contacted Keith directly by phone, shouting at him, claiming that his actions were to left wing and over the top, insisting that Labour MP’s be allowed to cross the picket lines. The cases of unfair dismissal and discrimination are still being fought through the legal system so it would not be appropriate to comment further on these issues at this stage.
However the incident highlights the gulf that exists within the British labour movement between genuine unionism and socialism and bureaucratic institutionalism. One a top down structure imposing dictates from above aimed primarily at maintaining the status quo. The other striving for a union democratically controlled by it’s members, recognising that the collective consciousness of the members is the union. That at all times the needs of the members came first.
Keith stands for the election of all union officers who should be accountable to democratically elected bodies of lay members at a national and regional level. For the devolvement of resources from a national and regional level to a workplace and a local level.
To this end Keith is standing on a draft manifesto http://grassrootsleftunite.blogspot.co.uk/2000/02/gmb-2015-general-secretary-election.html?m=1) which outlines in more detail the mechanics of reintroducing democracy, accountability and devolution of power in the GMB. You can also read Keith’s draft Election address here on the link below.
Keith Henderson was dismissed from his job as a regional organiser by the General, Municipal and Boilermakers (GMB) trade union for mounting a picket at the House of Commons on 30 November 2011 on behalf of the demand of a decent pension for GMB members who were low-paid workers demanding their right to a decent pension. They had democratically decided on the action at their branch meeting.
A number of Labour MPs respected the picket; this did not please the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, and his office contacted the MB General Secretary, Paul Kenny, indicating their displeasure- Mr Kenny phoned Keith and shouted at him, saying that an article he had written was “too left wing”.
Keith lost his Employment Tribunal on 30 September 2013 on the grounds of unfair dismissal. However the Judge concluded that, as he had contended, “left wing democratic socialism is a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010”.
The Tribunal went on to hold that although the principal reason for the Keith’s dismissal was his conduct “a substantial part of the reasoning behind dismissing the Claimant was because of his philosophical belief and was an affective cause of his dismissal”
Outrageously the right wing bureaucrats of the GMB have now gone to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) to overturn this latter part of the ruling because every militant and socialist can now cite it if victimised by their employer or trade union, or both in unison (pun intended, this is increasingly common).
They are so determined to extinguish this chink of light opened up for rank and file trade union militants and socialists by Keith’s principled struggle that they have already indicated that if they lose the EAT they are willing to take the case to the Court Of Appeal, it has already cost GMB members hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees!
John McDonnell MP wrote to Paul Kenny on 18th October 2013:
“On the day of the co-ordinated industrial action on pensions in November 2011 Keith did a great job in organising picket lines at Parliament and I joined those picket lines.
The atmosphere on the picket line was good natured and in the best traditions of the trade union movement of solidarity. Many Labour MPs supported the strike and rightfully respected the picket lines. This appears to have upset some in the office of the Labour leader. …
This must be the first time a trade union, and possibly any employer, has been found to have considered a person being a Left wing democratic socialist as part of the reasoning for sacking him.
I am sure you agree that the union would not want to be associated with any finding of discriminatory treatment of an employee on the basis of his belief in democratic socialism.”