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.