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GMB (trade union)
GMB (trade union)

The GMB (General, Municipal, Boilermakers) is a general trade union in the United Kingdom which has more than 631,000 members. GMB members work in nearly all industrial sectors, in retail, security, schools, distribution and the utilities, social care, the NHS and ambulance service and local government.

Structural history

GMB originates from a series of mergers, beginning when the National Amalgamated Union of Labour (NAUL), National Union of General Workers (NUGW) and the Municipal Employees Association in 1924 joined into a new union, named the National Union of General and Municipal Workers (NUGMW). Although the new union was one of the largest in the country it grew relatively slowly over the following decades, this changed in the 1970s when David Basnett created new sections for staff, and hotel and catering workers, and changed the union's name to the General and Municipal Workers' Union (GMWU) in 1974.[5]

In 1982, following a merger with the Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Shipwrights, Blacksmiths and Structural Workers (ASBSBSW), the union was renamed the General, Municipal, Boilermakers, from the initials of which its present name, which was officially adopted in 1987, is derived, although the abbreviation had been used since 1982.[6] For several years following the highly contested merger boilermaker members retained a distinct identity in GMB's 'Craft Section'.

The union has absorbed the following smaller unions:[6]

In 1992, the GMB for the first time allocated all of its members to one of eight industrial sections: clothing and textiles; commercial services; construction, furniture and allied; energy and utilities; engineering; food and leisure; process; and public services.[6]

The GMB's sections were rationalised in 2006, with the union since then consisting of GMB Commercial Services, GMB Manufacturing, and GMB Public Services.[7]

Thorne Credit Union Limited is a savings and loans co-operative established by the trade union for its members in 1998. Trading as TCU Money, it began life as GMB Lancashire Region Credit Union and was rolled out nationwide in 2000.[8] TCU is named after Will Thorne, founder of NUGW forerunner, the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers and one of the first Labour Members of Parliament. The credit union is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the PRA. Ultimately, like the banks and building societies, members’ savings are protected against business failure by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.[9]


Full-time workers pay £13.70 a month to be a member of the GMB. This entitles members to free insurance as well as other membership benefits.

Landmark Uber employment tribunal case

On 28 October 2016, in a landmark ruling if not overturned on appeal, the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are "workers" entitled to the minimum wage, paid holiday, sick leave and other normal worker entitlements, rather than self-employed. Two Uber drivers had brought the case to the employment tribunal with the assistance of the GMB Union on 20 July 2016,[10][11][12] as a test case on behalf of a group of 19 drivers.[13] As a consequence, The Pensions Regulator is considering if the ruling obliges Uber to create a workplace pension scheme.[14] The ruling could have implications wider than just Uber, throughout the so-called gig economy.[15] On 10 November 2017 the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the first tribunal's ruling. Uber indicated that it would appeal further.[16]

The law firm Leigh Day started the legal action against Uber on behalf of 25 members of the GMB union, which initially included Mr Farrar and Mr Aslam, although the two pursued this latest case with a different union, the Independent Worker's Union of Great Britain.[17]

On 10 February 2017 a similar case involving Pimlico Plumbers was confirmed at the Court of Appeal. A worker who had suffered a heart attack was found to have been unfairly or wrongfully dismissed.[18][19][20]

Another similar case against parcel delivery company Hermes Group, supported by the GMB through lawyers Leigh Day, had a similar outcome at an employment tribunal in Leeds on 25 June 2018. Hermes are considering an appeal. The GMB stated the ruling was likely to affect 14,500 Hermes couriers.[21] General Secretary, Tim Roache, described it as:

Political activity

GMB is one of the three largest affiliates to the Labour Party. It is a significant financial contributor to the Party's national and local organisation.[22] GMB gives Labour up to £2m a year in affiliation fees and other funds, making it the third largest union donor to the party.[23]

In 1991, GMB was the first British trade union to set up an office in Brussels and has been particularly engaged in seeking to influence European Union legislation that sets minimum standards for workers and for health and safety across the EU single market.

In 2008, GMB Congress voted to withdraw local funding from around a third of the 108 Labour MPs whose constituencies received support from GMB, due to the perception that some MPs within the party were treating workers with "contempt" and generally not working in the interests of the working class and GMB members.[24] Despite this the Congress opposed disaffiliation from the party.

In 2013, GMB announced it was cutting its affiliation fund from £1.2m to £150,000 by reducing the number of members it affiliates from 420,000 to 50,000.[25]

In 2013, GMB Congress, the lay member ruling body, adopted a 14-point plan to encourage GMB members to become active in the Labour Party and to stand as Labour candidates for public office (Parliament and local government). GMB has two representatives on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party, Mary Turner and Cath Speight. In Ireland, GMB is affiliated to the Irish Labour Party.[26]

Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party, the GMB has clashed with the party over the issues of Trident renewal and fracking, both of which are opposed by Corbyn.[27]


The GMB is led by a general secretary and treasurer. In 2005 Paul Kenny was appointed the acting general secretary, in place of Kevin Curran who stepped down after being suspended on full pay during an inquiry into ballot-rigging during the union's leadership election. The episode was seen as a power struggle between the national office and powerful regional heads, led by Kenny, who opposed centralisation. Kenny had lost the 2003 vote to Curran. In May 2006, Kenny was elected unopposed as general secretary.

Tim Roache was elected as general secretary and treasurer in November 2015, receiving 56.7% of the vote on a turnout of 4.2%, beating the one other candidate, Paul McCarthy.[28] Roache took up the post in 2016.

This post was known as "assistant general secretary" until 1935.

This position was known as "Chair of the Executive" or "National Chairman" from 1938 until the early 1990s.

Sports sponsorship

The GMB sponsors the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey team[29] and the Castleford Tigers rugby league team.

Until May 2011 it sponsored Swindon Town Football Club, but when Paolo Di Canio was appointed manager the GMB terminated the relationship because of Di Canio's political views. A GMB spokesman said: "He has openly voiced support for Mussolini so it beggars belief that Swindon could have appointed him, especially given the multi-ethnic nature of the team and the town."[30] The union sponsored Port Vale for the 2013–14 football season.[31]

See also

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