GMB (trade union)

 This is an old logo which is no longer used - White capital letters spell "GMB" on an orange background, where the "M" is used as the legs on two stick figures drawn with thinner lines. Below is the text "Britain's General Union".
Full name GMB[1]
Founded 1924[2]
Members 631,000
Affiliation TUC, ICTU, STUC, CSEU, Labour Party[3]
Key people Tim Roache, General Secretary
Office location 22 Stephenson Way, London
Country United Kingdom
Tim Roache, General Secretary since 2016

GMB 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, perhaps due to its image as being on the right wing of the labour movement. 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.[4]


GMB is the result of mergers with many others, although until the 1980s, most unions merging in were small. 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 and Allied Trade Union, from the initials of which its present name, which was officially adopted in 1987, is derived, although the abbreviation had been used since 1982.[5] 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:[5]

1924: Chatham Government Labourers' Union, St Helens Sheet Glass Flatteners' Trade Protection Society
1929: Cumberland Iron Ore Miners and Kindred Trades Association
1931: Cleveland Ironstone Quarrymens' Association, North Yorkshire and Cleveland Miners' Association
1933: Saw Grinders Trades Protection Society of Sheffield
1934: Amalgamated National Union of Quarryworkers and Settmakers
1935: Southern Counties Agricultural and Rural Workers
1936: National Society of Woolcombers and Allied Trades, Welsh Artisans' United Association
1938: Saw Handle Makers' Trade Society of Sheffield
1946: Aircraft Inspectors' Association, National Edge Tool Trade Society
1955: South Durham and North Yorkshire Salt Makers' Union
1957: National Cutlery Union
1958: British Airways Administrative Staffs Association
1962: Elastic Web Weavers' Union
1964: Amalgamated Union of File Trades, Ulster Transport and Allied Operatives Union
1965: Stoke Prior Salt Makers', Mechanics' and General Labourers' Union
1966: HM Stationery Staff Machine Association
1968: Scottish Metal Workers' Union, Scottish Operative Glaziers' Society, Wool, Yarn and Warehouse Workers' Union
1969: Union of Salt, Chemical and Industrial General Workers, Winsford Salt Makers
1972: Manchester Warehouse Employees Association, National Union of Waterworks Employees
1974: BSR Staff Association, National Pen Workers' Federation, United Rubber, Plastic and Allied Workers' Union
1975: Scottish Football Players' Union
1979: Coopers and Allied Workers' Federation of Great Britain
1982: Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Shipwrights, Blacksmiths and Structural Workers, Northern Ireland Professional Footballers' Association
1983: Scottish Textile Workers' Union
1986: Amalgamated Textile Warehouse Operatives (two branches), Amalgamated Textile Workers' Union (plus eight affiliates)
1988: Greater London Staff Association
1989: Association of Professional, Executive and Computer Staff, Association of Professional Music Therapists
1990: Legal Aid Staff Association, National Union of Labour Organisers
1991: Furniture, Timber and Allied Trades Union, National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers
1998: British Gas Managers' Association
2000: Managerial and Professional Organisation
2002: International Union of Sex Workers
2007: General Union of Loom Overlookers
2015: Unity

Thorne Credit Union

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.[6] 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.[7]

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,[8][9][10] as a test case on behalf of a group of 19 drivers.[11] As a consequence, The Pensions Regulator is considering if the ruling obliges Uber to create a workplace pension scheme.[12] The ruling could have implications wider than just Uber, throughout the so-called gig economy.[13]

Political activity

GMB offices in Liverpool

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.[14] GMB gives Labour invests up to £2m a year in affiliation fees and other funds, making it the third largest union donor to the party.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]


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, Paul Kenny was elected unopposed as general secretary.

Tim Roache was elected in the 2015 and took over in 2016.

General Secretaries

1924: William James Thorne, CBE
1934: Charles Dukes, 1st Baron Dukeston
1946: Tom Williamson, Baron Williamson
1962: Jack Cooper, Baron Cooper of Stockton Heath
1973: David Basnett
1986: John Edmonds
2003: Kevin Curran
2005: Paul Kenny
2016: Tim Roache

Deputy General Secretaries

1991: Tom Burlison
1996: Steve Pickering
2003: Debbie Coulter
2010: Post vacant

Sports sponsorship

The GMB are sponsors of the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey team[20] and the Castleford Tigers Rugby League team.

Until May 2011 they sponsored Swindon Town Football Club, but when Paolo Di Canio was appointed manager they terminated the relationship because of his 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.".[21] They sponsored League One club Port Vale for the 2013–14 season.[22]

See also


  1. GMB's History
  2. "TULO's member unions". Unions Together. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  3. Arthur Marsh and John B. Smethurst, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, vol.5, p.486
  4. 1 2 Arthur Marsh and John B. Smethurst, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, vol.5, pp.439-440, 486-488
  5. About TCU Money Thorne Credit Union (retrieved 21 February 2015)
  6. Credit Union Guide Financial Services Compensation Scheme (retrieved 2 April 2015)
  7. "Drivers and campaigners hail Uber employment ruling". BBC News. 28 October 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  8. Aditya Chakrabortty (28 October 2016). "Uber ruling is a massive boost for a fairer jobs market". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  9. Between (1) Mr Y Aslam (2) Mr J Farrar & Others and (1) Uber B.V. (2) Uber London Ltd (3) Uber Britannia Ltd (PDF) (Report). Employment Tribunals. 28 October 2016. Case Nos: 2202550/2015 & Others. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  10. Hilary Osborne (28 October 2016). "Uber loses right to classify UK drivers as self-employed". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  11. Jane Croft, Madhumita Murgia (28 October 2016). "Uber drivers win UK legal battle for workers' rights". Financial Times. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  12. Costas Pitas (28 October 2016). "UK tribunal rules Uber drivers deserve workers' rights". Reuters. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  13. Party Finance - The Electoral Commission : Regulatory issues : Political parties : Registers : Register of donations to political parties
  14. Hélène, Mulholland (14 February 2012). "GMB union to debate future links with Labour party". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  15. "GMB set to cut Labour MP funding". BBC. 9 June 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  16. "GMB cuts funds it gives Labour from £1.2m to £150,000" BBC
  17. Party structure » Who we are » The Labour Party Archived 3 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. "The Official Website of the Nottingham Panthers". Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  20. "Swindon sponsor pulls out after Paolo Di Canio appointment". The Guardian. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  21. "Valiants strike up a new union". The Sentinel. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
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