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Paul Kenny to step down as GMB General Secretary; Len McCluskey to seek fresh mandate in Unite

Paul Kenny announced to today’s Central Executive Council that he intends to step down as GMB general secretary in late 2013.

It is no exaggeration to say that the very existence today of GMB as a healthy, solvent, independent and combative union is the achievment of Paul Kenny, who took over the union in 2005 as Acting General Secretary, in the wake of scandal surrounding the circumstances of former GS Kevin Curran’s 2003 election.

Kenny gave a new confidence to GMB, and swept away the old habits of industrial partnership; in his own words:

“I am sick of people trying to camoflage what we are about. We are a vested interest and proud to be one. Our vested interest is the working people of this country, the people who have no other voice than the trade union movement.……. I do not go to parties and introduce myself as an “industrial relations expert” or a “purveyor of partnerships”. I am proud of what we do, who we are, and where we have come from … The fact that there is decent pay, or a pension scheme, or proper health and safety, or respect from the management is down to union organisation”

Kenny rolled out the GMB@Work organising strategy, that had been successful in London Region, that located the union in the workplace, based upon lay member organisation; and which recognised that employers and workers have very different interests and that every workplace needs to be organised so that they could call a ballot for industrial action.

Paul Kenny has also been a forthright voice in the wider labour movement, currently President of the TUC on the 100th anniversary of Will Thorne occupying the same office. He has been critical of the Labour Party, regretting its failures to adequately promote the interests of ordinary working class people, but at the same time recognising that the election of a Labour government is necessary, and only through engagement with the party by the unions can progress be made.

Ed: This announcement means that there will be an election for General Secretary in 2013 in both the GMB and Unite. It is understood that LenMcCluskey will be seeking a fresh mandate and that a fresh election in Unite will be called at today’s meeting of Unite’s national executive. The postal ballot of over one million members could begin as early as the middle of March 2013, following two months in which branches may make nominations. Assuming Len McCluskey is re-elected, he would serve until 2018 when he will be 67.

Comments are now closed on this article owing to the potentially libellous nature of some comments received.


  1. andy newman says:

    The GMB rule book requires that branches are asked to nominate 6 months before the vacancy occurs. As Kenny is saying he will stay till the end of 2013 this means – by my reckoning – that Congress in June will establish the runners and riders.

    Of course the big question would be the attitude of any candidate to a possible merger with UNISON.

  2. Kevin Curran says:

    It appears that you have simply repeated the propaganda that Paul Kenny’s supporters have been pushing for the last 7 years without bothering to examine the facts. Although I have kept silent throughout this time I have reached the end of my tether. For those interested enough I refer you to a response I recently made to the same propaganda repeated by Paul Hayes in London region when he launched yet another unprovoked attack.

    By all means applaud the people you support but don’t do it without reference to the certifiable facts.
    Kevin Curran

  3. Paul Kenny says:

    The recent posting by Kevin Curran has been brought to my notice from several GMB members who are becoming increasingly concerned about the attacks on the GMB and individuals within from a website Curran chooses to publicise his distorted view of history as far his activities during and following the GMB general Secretary election of 2002/2003.
    I believe the only way now of dealing with Curran’s obvious attempts to rewrite history is to seek authority from the GMB Executive to publish the evidence and report of the Inquiry team which includes witness evidence from many Officals and others who gave first hand knowledge of the Campaign run by and on behalf of Kevin Curran.

    Only Curran can know why he chose to use a public forum to make allegations against myself and the President as well as others but no doubt in due course all will be revealed.
    Paul Kenny

  4. Paul Kenny says:

    Kevin Curran also makes claims with regard to turning the GMB’s Financial and organisation position from deficit and membership loss in 2004 to the 7 straight years of growth since his exit.

    The Budget and organising plans adopted in late 2003 were drawn up by the then Regional Secretaries group at a meeting in Nottingham.

    Curran’s record as Regional secretary in Northern Region was years of membership decline and growing levels of expenditure.
    GMB@WORK was and probably still remains an alien concept to Kevin who prefers to seek comfort in predicting the demise of Trade Unions no doubt based on his own experience of failure to grow the Northern Region of GMB during his years in office.

    The “merger” of GMB with AMICUS and TGWU was seen by some as the only way out of the GMB’s years of decline.
    I know it was also seen by some as just the GMB becoming the latest addition to the stable of swallowed up Unions such as MSF,GPMU and BIFU.

    I have never claimed the battle to turn around the GMB was fought by me alone, it took the combined efforts of our Activists,Officers and Staff and our Lay member Governance Bodies.
    The process was at times difficult and meant whole scale changes in what we did and who we were.

    That development and change continues to bring more confidence and growth to GMB.

    I know,and so do many others the circumstances surrounding Kevin losing the confidence and trust of the Executive,his colleagues including many who had campaigned for his election and the wider membership and I suspect so does Kevin.

    I announced only yesterday of my intention to step down as General Secretary of GMB at the end of next year,it seems that some had predicted my leaving the GMB and the campaign for a successor has already begun.
    The Website Curran has linked himself to has been nothing but a crude attempt to attack and smear the GMB and many individuals within it under cover of being a debate about democracy.

    It seems some people believe such tactics give them credibility or maybe we are witnessing the first phase of a return to the type of rule breaking and divisive dirty tricks campaigning which surfaced with such effect during 2002/2003.

    The GMB is wiser and somewhat tougher than it was back then and a lot less naive.

    I am looking forward to facing down those like Kevin who think its ok now to come out of the dark and attack the GMB because the union showed the strength to change and become the organisation some always knew it could return to.

    Paul Kenny

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