By Rory Murphy
GMB’s Scotland secretary Gary Smith has been elected as the trade union’s new general secretary, following a ballot of its members.
Mr Smith won just over half the 61,000 votes cast, defeating rivals Rehana Azam and Giovanna Holt, who got 28% and 22% respectively.
He will succeed Tim Roache, who resigned last year after allegations about his conduct, which he has denied.
GMB is the UK’s third-largest union, with more than 600,000 members, many of them in the Scotch Whisky industry with hundreds of them at the Chivas plant in Dumbarton..
It represents workers in a wide range of industries, including retail, security, utilities, social care and some NHS staff.
It is also one of the three largest affiliates to the Labour Party and is a significant financial contributor to the party locally and nationally.
Following his election, Mr Smith said it would be “the honour of my life” to lead GMB, and vowed to build a “better, bigger and stronger union”.
“I joined as a 16-year-old gas apprentice and owe this union so much,” he said.
“Throughout my entire adult working life, I’ve tried to repay this huge debt by fighting hard, every day, to improve the working lives of our members.
“As general secretary, I promise to lead with the same strength and energy.”
He also pledged to “shed the practices and cultures that have blighted us in recent times,” following a critical report into the union’s culture in September.
The independent review by Karon Monaghan QC called the union “institutionally sexist” and said its policies were not “sufficiently clear or robust”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer congratulated Mr Smith.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer congratulated Mr Smith on his victory and praised him as “committed campaigner for the rights of workers”.
“I’m looking forward to working with Gary in his new role to continue the fight to improve the lives of working people in our country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Iain Watson, a BBC political correspondent, revealed that the QC’s report found that “bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment” were “endemic” in the GMB.
And that it said that the union’s regional secretaries – who had always been men – held “disproportionate power”.
On the surface, electing a male regional secretary, rather than either of the female candidates, isn’t a good look.
But straightaway Gary Smith has pledged to implement the recommendations of the Monaghan report in full.
That will keep him busy.
He has also pledged to rebuild the union from the grassroots up, with more emphasis on workplace organisation.
Keir Starmer has welcomed his election – and politically the two men are unlikely to be on a collision course.
Last year, Gary Smith refused to support attempts by Richard Leonard, pictured right, the party’s previous left-wing leader in Scotland, to stay in office – despite Mr Leonard’s membership of the GMB, and his former career as a union official.
Mr Smith said “our members would not thank us for getting bogged down in an internal Scottish Labour party issue”.
But some believe privately he helped persuade Mr Leonard to resign – an outcome welcomed by the Labour leadership at Westminster.