A leading trade union that publicly criticises the use of gagging orders, has been discovered utilising them against their own personnel who voice concerns about bullying and prejudiced behavior.

The GMB had advocated the abolition of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) at their congress the previous year, specifically relating to incidences of sexual harassment and discrimination.

A recent examination, however, has disclosed a minimum of three cases where female workers were persuaded to sign such ‘gag’ agreements to resolve employment disputes.

Smith speaking at a Scottish Labour conference
Gary Smith speaking at a Scottish Labour conference

These agreements consist of ‘confidentiality clauses’ which prevent the employee from discussing their allegations or making negative remarks about the GMB, a function identical to that of an NDA.

Among the cases are women who have alleged sexual discrimination, harassment, bullying, and victimisation.

General secretary of GMB, Gary Smith, has faced criticism due to comments he made during a two-hour meeting with a woman who had filed a sexual harassment complaint within the union. It was revealed that she too had entered into an agreement akin to an NDA.

This news breaks as a cluster of GMB employees based in the north of England cast votes to strike over allegations regarding the union’s neglect in responding to a 2020 report branding the organisation as ‘institutionally sexist’.

These employees have also argued that disciplinary procedures are not being followed and their own spokespeople are being intimidated.

Among the women who entered into these confidentiality agreements, some revealed that they were also blamed for misconduct after voicing grievances about practices within the workplace.

In one particular case, a woman in Glasgow, was paid over £20,000 to refrain from pursuing an employment tribunal and to never raise her concerns again after filing a complaint for sexual discrimination and bullying.

“It was one of the most terrible experiences of my life and I still harbor fear that they will seek retribution if I expose what happened,” the woman noted. “In my perspective, I had to sign an NDA, which is tantamount to a confidentiality clause. It’s simply wrong. A trade union should not act in such a manner.”

GMB members.

Recent details have emerged about GMB head, Gary Smith, from a secret recording during a formal meeting with a female worker who had lodged a sexual harassment complaint.

Smith told her that he would not allow anybody to ruin his union.

He hinted at their superior legal representation and accused her of being confrontational by pursuing an employment tribunal.

Despite this, during the marathon two-hour meeting, Smith admitted he accepted her claims that she had indeed been violated.

However, she was later terminated on grounds of alleged sexual harassment and bullying, accusations which she denies.

Following the publicisation of Smith’s comments, the union declared that it is considering legal action in response to the covert recordings, even alerting Labour MPs that the comments have been misrepresented and taken out of context.

A group of employees penned an open letter to Smith on Friday, calling him out on his remarks.

Their correspondence alleged: “You have attacked the complainant, detailing her apparent offenses. These may or may not be true but are not relevant to what you have said in those meetings – this is audible in the recordings.”

“You claimed that these recordings are selectively edited and devoid of context, but nothing can justify those words.”

In 2020, a report by KC Karon Monaghan revealed that the trade union was riddled with sexism and misogyny and had been derelict in addressing complaints of sexual harassment.

Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB trade union
Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB trade union

Upon securing the influential role with a £148,000 annual salary in June 2021, Smith vowed to implement the recommendations of Monaghan’s report and rectify the issues in the Union.

Labour MSP and GMB member Monica Lennon commented, “These serious allegations necessitate an independent investigation.”

“As GMB employees in England strike over sexual harassment allegations and women in Glasgow vocalise an alleged history of victim-blaming, it’s crucial that Karon Monaghan KC is quickly reinstated. The persistent claims of institutional misogyny, bullying, and harassment need to be painstakingly investigated for the sake of the individuals involved and the thousands of Union members reliant on the trade union protections at work.”

In answer to these allegations, GMB contested that none of their employees were asked to sign NDAs before departing the union, saying “GMB does not use NDAs as confirmed by a specialising KC in employment law asked to examine our procedures.”

“Those leaving our union are asked to adhere to standardised settlement agreements that are commonly utilised by the public and private sectors to protect personal or commercial information relating to members, employees, or employers.”

“The standard agreements employed by GMB include no confidentiality specifications that are not absolutely commonplace across the public sector and industry.”

Regarding the email from the group of employees, a spokesman declared, “We would neither respond to nor comment on anonymous emails from unverified accounts.”