The GMB Union has pulled its funding of Labour in London. It’s because a Labour council sacked an employee who is one of the union’s members. The GMB says it looks like potential “political victimisation”. But does the move show a wider disquiet in the trade union movement with Keir Starmer’s party?
Meet Gary Bolister
As the GMB tweeted:
Gary is devastated. Working for Islington council, where he was born and raised, was his passion and vocation.
His callous sacking over an honest error is starting to look like political victimisation.https://t.co/Gd3PhpbXWi
— GMB Union (@GMB_union) July 27, 2021
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Gary Bolister worked as a caretaker for Labour-run Islington council for 24 years. But a mistake during a protest in 2020 has now cost him his job. As the GMB wrote:
During the summer of 2020, Gary had been taking part in regular protests against Islington’s road closures which had been introduced by the Council without consultation. On 21 November 2020, Gary took part in a spontaneous Facebook live video in his own time on a public highway. The video captured a councillor and some of her family in their home and when Gary realised, he moved the video maker away from the property.
Bolister took part in the protest just a week after his father’s funeral. After the incident, he expressed “remorse” and offered to write an apology letter to the councillor. But the council sacked him anyway.
Sacked for protesting?
As the GMB wrote:
A formal complaint was made by the councillor and Gary was investigated under the disciplinary procedure. The investigation was flawed and prejudiced. Despite these issues being raised, Islington Council went ahead with the hearing and dismissed Gary for gross misconduct on the basis that he had breached the code of conduct and the social media policy.
Bolister appealed the decision. The incident was the only “misdemeanour” across 24 years of service. But as the GMB wrote:
Islington Council decided not to uphold the appeal. We argued that the decision was not reasonable and the penalty was unduly harsh. Islington Council took no notice.
Islington council: “no compassion or humanity”
Bolister said in a statement:
I’m absolutely gutted – I’ve spent half my life serving the council and this is how they’ve thanked me.
I wasn’t even filming and I didn’t even know who the councillor was. I’ve said sorry over and over again.
Losing my job has had a massive effect on my mental health and my family life. I feel like Islington council has shown me no compassion or humanity.
You can sign a petition in support of Bolister here.
Hitting the “party coffers”
Now, the GMB is now taking things one step further.
As it tweeted:
GMB will always back our members.
If Islington Labour refuse to listen to reason then we'll hit them where it hurts – the party coffers.
You can back Gary here 👇https://t.co/Xs0wB7Gl5I
— GMB Union (@GMB_union) July 27, 2021
The union said in a statement it has “withdrawn funding” from Labour in London because of Bolister’s situation. GMB regional secretary Warren Kenny said:
Gary is utterly devastated by his sacking – working for Islington council, where he was born and raised, was his passion and his vocation. His callous sacking over an honest error is beginning to look like political victimisation.
GMB will always back our members and if Islington Labour refuse to listen to reason we will hit them where it hurts – in the party coffers.
As SKWAWKBOX noted, the GMB’s action may represent a wider disquiet among trade unions over the Labour Party’s current leadership and direction:
Unite, another giant union affiliated to the party, has already reduced its funding over Keir Starmer’s leadership. If the Labour right expected GMB to tamely fall in line after its recent general secretary election, it assumed wrongly. GMB boss Gary Smith has already ordered a complete review of the union’s donations to Labour – and GMB and Unite recently joined forces to condemn Labour’s shoddy treatment of staff put at risk of redundancy.
Will we see more actions like those of the GMB in the future? Quite possibly.
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