The UK’s third largest trade union is facing widespread anger from its Scottish membership after it announced its backing of a No vote in next year’s referendum without a ballot or thorough consultation of its members.
GMB, which has 56,000 members across Scotland, said yesterday that it had held a “lengthy consultation” featuring meetings and political forums – but the union announced its stance with scheduled consultative meetings in Dundee, Kilmarnock, and Glasgow still yet to take place.
And The Targe has spoken to GMB members who say they were never asked their views nor informed of consultative meetings.
Ernest Ross from Edinburgh, who says he has been a member of the GMB for almost ten years, told us he has opted out of the political levy in protest and has discussed with his union rep the prospect of leaving the union altogether. Ross said he was “appalled” that he had never seen a ballot, and that his union rep told him this morning that “there weren’t any” consultative meetings.
Meanwhile, Jim Bollan, a Scottish Socialist Party councillor in West Dunbartonshire, has already resigned from the union as a result of the decision. He told us he was “bitterly disappointed about this undemocratic decision by the GMB leadership in Scotland which is about serving the needs of the Labour Party as opposed to the GMB members, who deserved to be fully consulted and balloted before a decision of this magnitude was taken”.
He continued: “Myself and other GMB members have never been contacted or consulted about this decision which stinks as a stitch up to support the Labour Party who perversely put the boot into GMB members on a daily basis in Councils up and down Scotland. I have resigned from the GMB as I will not remain part of a Union that is dictatorial and undemocratic.”
The Targe also spoke to Chris Stephens, an SNP candidate in next year’s European Parliament elections and an activist for the Unison trade union in Glasgow, who says he has spoken to a number of unhappy GMB members.
Stephens criticised the five trade unions backing the No campaign for failing to hold proper consultations with their members and agreed that this “could happen at other unions”. He said it was becoming “very obvious” that the consultation “has, at best, been patchy” and the GMB’s relationship to the Labour Party had “of course” played into the union’s decision.
He advised that unhappy members should first “opt out of the political levy so they’re not giving money to either Better Together or the Labour Party”, and next “seek answers from their local GMB representatives about when the consultation was and whether that vote’s going to be overturned”.
Stephens said he believed the majority of trade unionists would seek a neutral position on the referendum, and that he viewed trade unions coming to a decision before the release of the White Paper and before other parties’ devolution reviews as “barmy”.
GMB Scotland has been contacted for comment.