So, farewell Tim Roache

Submitted by martin on 29 April, 2020 - 9:42 Author: A Glasgow GMB Member

On Tuesday 28 April 2020, Tim Roache resigned suddenly as general secretary of the GMB union, citing "ill health"

So, farewell Tim Roache.

First elected GMB General Secretary in 2015, in an election in which just 4.2% of the membership participated, you romped home with a mandate from precisely 2.2% of the membership.

A big step forward from the 2010 General Secretary election (zero turnout – only one candidate) and the 2006 General Secretary election (zero turnout – only one candidate).

At first sight, though, a big step backwards from the 2003 General Secretary election, which had a 14% turnout. But, as you’ll remember, the high turnout (by GMB standards) was down to ballot-rigging: 60,000 ballot papers issued to dead, lapsed and retired former members.

(6,000 votes cast by GMB ‘members’ in the AA motoring organisation alone. I never knew the AA workforce was so class-conscious. And, miraculously, thousands of votes from non-existent GMB ‘members’ at the Millenium Dome and clothing factories which had been closed for years.)

Anyway, you got elected fair-and-square in 2015. And then you did the business to get re-elected in 2019.

The 2018 GMB conference agreed to increase the number of branch nominations needed to get onto a ballot paper for General Secretary elections from 30 to 50. A slight advantage there for an incumbent General Secretary.

Mysteriously, a motion from my branch to the 2019 conference to reduce the number of nominations needed to 15 never even made it onto conference agenda. But I suppose that this kind of thing happens in our movement.

The 2019 conference didn’t discuss my branch motion. But it did agree to call a snap General Secretary election, a year ahead of schedule. A slight advantage there, again, I think, for an incumbent General Secretary.

Despite the number of nominations needed to get onto the ballot paper being increased to 50, a second person managed to get sufficient nominations.

Helpfully (to you), the GMB Finance and General Purposes Committee ruled that she lacked the competences to be the union’s General Secretary and should therefore not be allowed onto the ballot paper.

I’m sure that it’s just a coincidence that the only prospective candidate ever deemed to lack the competences to be General Secretary was a female.

But the F&GP’s decision was overturned on appeal, and after a lot of adverse publicity in the media. And so, unlike in 2010 and 2006, an election actually took place.

But without a campaign. Union rules ban General Secretary candidates from circulating their own election material, holding campaign meetings, or speaking at any branch meeting (including their own) about the election. A slight advantage, again, to an incumbent General Secretary.

But candidates can speak at election hustings organised by the GMB.

So, I went to the sole election hustings organised, at a Friday tea-time, for the whole of Scotland. I remember you being asked what you would do, if re-elected, to keep the gas flowing in the pipes. It didn’t strike me as a very Green answer:

The GMB had been a gasworkers union for 135 years. You would make sure that it was a gas workers union for another 135 years. Wind turbines were pretty useless. They hardly generated any energy. They were all made abroad. They added to the problem of pollution (in being shipped to the UK). What was needed was smart meters in every home. … …

Anyway, at the close of 2019 you were re-elected as General Secretary. But now you’ve resigned. Given that were re-elected in the last six months, are you still under guarantee? Can we get a refund?

A surprisingly brief statement from the GMB says that you have resigned because of ill health, which you have been “suffering for some time”.

It’s always sad to hear that someone is not in the best of health. But if you’ve been suffering from ill health “for some time” (which I would take to mean: more than six months), wasn’t it a bit irresponsible to stand for re-election as General Secretary?

And the report in the ‘Financial Times’ is saying something different. It says that a letter raising various personal allegations against you was sent to various members of the Executive Committee last week, that you phoned in sick on Monday, and resigned on Tuesday.

Of course, I don’t necessarily attach any credence to the report. After all, it says that your resignation has “thrown the trade union movement into turmoil”. But no matter how hard I look, I can’t find any turmoil anywhere.

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