The GMB union, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, has been branded ‘institutionally sexist’ by a barrister leading an independent inquiry into its culture.
Karon Monagan QC said the union needs “fundamental change” after finding that women were underrepresented throughout the union’s ranks, with branches “often organised in a way that deters women members’ participation”.
The inquiry was launched earlier this year after former general secretary Tim Roache stood down amid anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct. Roach has called the allegations “entirely made up”.
Monagan’s report says: “Bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB.
“The culture in the GMB is one of heavy drinking and late-night socialising, salacious gossip and a lack of professionalism.
“The GMB is institutionally sexist. The general secretaries and all regional secretaries are, and always have been, men.”
Monagan was contacted by around 150 people who wished to provide evidence for the investigation. Some 39 people were interviewed, including three former general secretaries.
Examples of harassment in the report included comments on members’ body shape and clothes, leering, “sloppy kisses”, “sticking a tongue” in a woman’s ear and inappropriate touching.
“I have also heard of more serious sexual assaults. I was told by one witness that ‘it is simply expected that you’ll have to suffer from being groped at events’,” Monaghan wrote.
The report makes 27 recommendations to improve the union’s culture, including increasing the representation of women at all levels; bringing in a new bespoke complaints procedure for sexual harassment; strengthening the HR department at its national office; introducing sexual harassment refresher training for all employees; and an annual equalities audit.
Barbara Plant, GMB national president said: “Karon’s report makes sad and difficult reading. On behalf of GMB, I apologise to all those who have experienced sexual harassment or bullying within the union.
“It’s clear that real and lasting change is needed for us to become a safe and inclusive place for all.
“Under the leadership of the Central Executive Council, the union will now act on the report’s recommendations. We are committed to achieving this transformational change.”