Friday, 30 October 2015

'Dead Sheep' Regulator

Because the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) in Scotland is a creature of UK statute, I also shared my thoughts about this 'dead sheep' regulator with all Scottish MPs at Westminster. 

Dear MP

'Dead Sheep' Regulator

I enclose, for your information and interest, a copy of a letter I sent earlier today to Members of the Scottish Parliament.

While the issues involved in my complaint to EHRC have an obvious impact on civic life in Scotland, the legislative responsibility for equality and employment matters rests with the Westminster Parliament, hence my reason for sharing this correspondence with Scotland's MPs as well.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine 

Image result for dead sheep + images

Dear MSP

'Dead Sheep' Regulator

I wrote to the general secretary of the GMB, Sir Paul Kenny, back in July 2015 to complain about an advert for a job as a Union Organiser which required potential candidates to campaign in support of the Labour Party.

Now I thought this was a rather strange and unjustifiable criterion to lay down for a non-specialist job, and said as much to Sir Paul whom I knew when I worked in London as a full-time official with NUPE, now part of Unison. In fact, I told Sir Paul that this kind of job requirement is plainly discriminatory under UK equality legislation which makes it unlawful for an employer to demand that job applicants must hold (or not hold) certain beliefs, including political beliefs. 

I did not receive a reply from Sir Paul and so in August I raised my concerns with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland, expecting a shared sense of urgency into stamping out this kind of behaviour.I also expected that the EHRC would conduct a swift investigation before declaring that the GMB's recruitment processes had no place in modern Scotland.  

Sadly, this proved not to be the case and having read all the EHRC 'bumph' about its own processes and procedures I concluded that EHRC Scotland is what I would describe as a 'dead sheep' regulator which doesn't have a bark never mind a bite, preferring instead to conduct all of its enquires behind closed doors without reporting back to the original complainer or making its findings public.

I realise that there must be good reasons for a public watchdog operating in this bizarre fashion, but just like the old MPs expenses regime at Westminster MPs all I can say is that they must have made sense at the time because once the cat was out of the bag, no one believed that the House of Commons 'rules' were fit for purpose.

So rather than just leave this issue with the EHRC, I have decided to share my experience more widely on the basis that while trade unions in Scotland are important civic institutions, they need to act with integrity and account for their behaviour to the wider electorate, as well as ordinary union members.

In other words if trade unions are to continue as 'representative' organisations, then they have to draw talent from all backgrounds and walks of life, instead of restricting themselves to a shallow gene pool which is so politically partisan and blatantly pro-Labour. 

Finally, while I do not carry a torch for any political party these days, I would simply observe that the great majority of trade union members in Scotland (including GMB members) supported the SNP in recent local and national elections - not the Labour Party.  

Kind regards

Mark Irvine 

NB I attach the following enclosures for your information and interest:

1 Letter to EHRC Scotland dated 24 September 2015
2 Letter to EHRC Scotland dated 21 August 2015
3 Letter to Sir Paul Kenny dated 10 August 2015
4 Letter to Sir Paul Kenny dated 24 July 2015

-----Original Message-----
From: markirvine <>
To: Lynn.Welsh <>
Sent: Thu, Sep 24, 2015 12:29 pm
Subject: GMB Scotland

Dear Lynn

GMB Scotland

I refer to your letter dated 17 September 2015 and our subsequent telephone conversation regarding the EHRC investigation into issues I have raised about GMB Scotland's recruitment procedures. 

As I understand the position, EHRC Scotland is saying that I have:
  • no locus whatsoever in the ongoing investigation
  • no right to consider what GMB Scotland has to say in response to my complaint
  • no right for these matters to be discussed by members of the EHRC Scotland Committee  
  • no right to be informed of the eventual outcome even if, as I believe, a brazen act of unlawful discrimination has taken place
I have to say I regard this as an extraordinary way for a public regulator to behavenot least because the issues involved deserve to be aired in an open and transparent manner instead of being dealt with in secret effectively, as if my original complaint has somehow become the private property of EHRC Scotland and the GMB trade union.

As a result, rather than waiting weeks or perhaps even months for EHRC Scotland to complete its investigations, I plan to raise my concerns with MSPs, MPs, the media and other opinion formers, especially as the findings of your enquiry may remain private and effectively under wraps on a permanent basis.

In my view this is ludicrous and completely unsatisfactory state of affairs, and to paraphrase a former Labour chancellor of the exchequer, Denis Healey, being investigated by EHRC Scotland looks a lot to me like being savaged by a dead sheep except that all the 'action', if that's the right word, takes place in private and behind closed doors. 

I would ask you to pass this letter on to members of the EHRC Scotland Committee along with copies of my previous correspondence and original letter of complaint.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine   

-----Original Message-----
From: markirvine <>
To: scotland <>
Sent: Fri, Aug 21, 2015 10:18 am
Subject: GMB Scotland

21 August 2015

Dear EHRC Scotland

GMB Scotland

I would like to register a complaint with EHRC Scotland over the recruitment practices of the GMB trade union.

I wrote to the GMB general secretary, Sir Paul Kenny, on 24 July 2015 and again on 10 August 2015 raising my concerns about the union's recruitment practices which I believe to be discriminatory and unlawful.  Copies of both of my letters to the GMB   are attached for information.

As a former trade union official myself, latterly as Unison's Head of Local Government in Scotland, I fail to see how the GMB can legitimately insist that potential candidates for a non-specialist job such as Union Organiser must be willing to work in the interests of the Labour Party.

To my mind this job criterion specified by the GMB is a flagrant breach of UK equality legislation which makes it unlawful to deny a potential employee a job because they do not share their prospective employer's political beliefs. 

I have not received a reply from Sir Paul and so  I would now like to complain directly to EHRC Scotland and would ask you take the  matter up on my behalf.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Email -     

-----Original Message-----
From: markirvine <>
To: paul.kenny <>
Sent: Mon, Aug 10, 2015 4:49 pm
Subject: Fwd: GMB and Equality Legislation

Dear Sir Paul

GMB and Equality Legislation

I refer to my letter dated 24 July 2014 and enclose the extract from the ACAS guide for employers and employees on 'Religion or Belief and the Workplace': 

  1. 1.2  Direct discrimination means that workers or job applicants must not be treated less favourably than others because they follow, are perceived to follow, or do not follow a particular (or any) religion or belief. 

    For example it is unlawful to:

    • decide not to employ someone• dismiss them• refuse to provide them with training• deny them promotion• give them adverse terms and conditions

    because they follow, or do not follow, a particular religion or belief.

    Example: At interview it becomes apparent that a job applicant is Hindu. Although the applicant has all the skills and competences required of the job, the organisation decides not to offer him the job because he is a Hindu. This is direct discrimination.
The example given by ACAS relates to religion, but in my view the requirement that GMB job applicants must be willing to work in the interests of the Labour Party must also be discriminatory because, as a matter of common sense, this criterion much exclude people who actively support other political parties, the SNP or Greens for example.

I have yet to receive an reply to my previous letter which may be due the holiday period, but if I do not hear from you by Monday 17 August 2015 please note that I intend to taking the matter up with the EHCR in Scotland.
Kind regards

Mark Irvine 

-----Original Message-----
From: markirvine <>
To: paul.kenny <>
Sent: Fri, Jul 24, 2015 5:24 pm
Subject: GMB Scotland

Dear Sir Paul 

GMB Scotland

I came across this advert on the GMB Scotland web site recently.

I considered applying for one of the two vacant organising posts until I read Paragraph 6 of the  Job  D escription which is reproduced below for easy reference:

6) Political

• To encourage organisational work at CLP, District and Regional level to advance the policies of the GMB in the Labour Party.
• Take part in election campaigns in support of Labour Candidates.
• To encourage recruitment initiatives to increase the membership of the Labour Party.

Now I would say that I am very well qualified for the job of union organiser, as a former NUPE full-time official in London and also from my role as Unison's Head of Local Government and chief negotiator in Scotland.

In recent years I have been working with Action 4 Equality Scotland which, as you probably know, has been leading the fight for equal pay in Scot land's local councils.

am pleased to say that our efforts have been very  successful and A4ES haundoubtedly made a huge difference to the lives of thousands of low paid council workers in areas like North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council, for example, both Labour-run councils by the way

But the prospects of me working for GMB (Scotland) are rather hampered by the requirement in the Job Description to support the work and interests of the Labour Party, which I left years ago .

In my view, this part of the Job Description is quite bizarre  because  these days  the majority of union members  in Scotland  including GMB members, of course, support the SNP .

Yet, sadly, it seems that to get a job as an organiser with GMB (Scotland) I must be a Labour Party member and/or supporter which sits oddly and uneasily with the GMB's claim to be an equal opportunities employer. 

In my view, this particular job criterion is discriminatory and must surely be driving away huge numbers of capable and talented non-Labour candidates. 

I had considered referring the advert to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, but felt on reflection that it would be better to draw these matters  to your attention, in the first instance, as the GMB General Secretary.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine



GMB Scotland Region has vacancies for two Organisers and we are seeking applications from individuals with a desire to help us develop the membership of the union.  

As an Organiser, the successful applicant would join the Region’s drive to recruit and organise new members, this role will also have an emphasis on servicing membership and will carry a worksheet. 
The exact location of these posts within Scotland has yet to be decided.  Before applying candidates need to be aware that they may be based at any of our offices within the Region.  A copy of a job description for an Organiser is attached. 

Applicants must have a proven record of the following: 

• Servicing, organising and recruitment 
• A broad understanding of trade union objectives, and a strong personal commitment to these objectives 
• Applicants must be prepared to work as a team, and the successful candidate would display strong interpersonal skills and an ability to communicate effectively in challenging environments 
• On a personal basis, the applicant would need to display energy, enthusiasm, resilience, commitment, and an ability to use individual initiative. 

Since the backgrounds of suitable candidates can vary enormously, we are requesting that interested applicants should not only send a CV, but also a special report (up to 500 words), which should describe what you believe is involved in the role, and why you believe you would be successful. 

Training will be provided to the successful candidate, who will receive an excellent package of benefits and Terms and Conditions.  This includes a car so the applicants are required to be in possession of a full current driving licence.  It should be carefully noted that the hours of work are ‘unspecified’ and will necessarily entail an element of unsocial hours, which will include weekend work.  Periods of working away from home will also be required.  It should also be noted that Officers of the GMB can be relocated at the discretion of the Regional Secretary to meet the needs of the Region. 

If you are interested in being considered for this vacancy, application forms are available by contacting the regional office on 0141 332 8641, or emailing or
Please note the deadline for applications is first post on Friday 29 May 2015, after which a short-list will be drawn up.  For those who are short-listed an Assessment Day will take place on either Thursday 11 or Friday 12 June 2015 at GMB, Fountain House, 1/3 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow G3 7UJ.  Successful candidates from the Assessment Day will go forward for a formal interview which will be held on Friday, 19 June 2015 at GMB, Fountain House, 1/3 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow G3 7UJ. 
Would all applicants therefore, please ensure they are available on these dates. 

Job Title:   Organiser 
Accountable to:  Through Senior Organiser to Regional Secretary 
Main Purpose of Role: 
• To organise high quality representation of members, principally at local and Regional level, but on occasions at National level. 
• Under the authority of the Regional Secretary and through the supervision of the Senior Organiser, build and maintain Union membership by implementing agreed strategies. 

1) Recruitment and Organisation 
• Identify unorganised employees as targets for recruitment, prepare campaigns appropriate to each recruitment situation, including the personal recruitment of individuals and groups, and organisation of recruitment teams and recruitment networks. 
• Establish procedures to consolidate and retain membership. 
• Motivate Activists, Representatives and Branches to recruit and organise members, monitoring this organisational work, as necessary. 
• Establish recognition, and maintain workplace and Branch organisation, encouraging the highest level of self-sufficiency consistent with high quality representation. 
• Assist Branches to develop their Recruitment Plans. 

2) Representation and Negotiation 
• Handle individual and collective grievances and disciplinary issues. 
• Prepare and present claims for improvements in Pay and Conditions, within a variety of different bargaining arrangements, avoiding deadlocks and using ACAS and other agencies to resolve difficulties, as appropriate. 
• Analyse the outcome of negotiations. 
• Represent members before Employment Tribunals, Medical Appeal Tribunals and Social Security Appeal Tribunals on straightforward cases, seeking advice and assistance on more complex cases, as necessary. 
• Responsible for implementing Union's policy on Equal Opportunities. 

3) Health, Safety and the Environment 
• Provide support to Union Representatives on Health, Safety and Environmental issues, encouraging a preventative approach to hazards, and a high standard of health and environmental protection, with the support of specialist help, where required. 
4) Pensions 
• Negotiate the establishment of and/or the improvements in Pensions Schemes, applying the principles of equality, with the support of specialist help, where required. 

5) Work Organisation and Productivity 
• Negotiate the introduction of, or improvements in, productivity schemes of various types. 
• Devise strategies for changing work organisation to increase job satisfaction, and to create career pathways. 
• Assess company strengths and weaknesses using information from company accounts and from other published sources with the support of specialist help, where required. 

6) Political 
• To encourage organisational work at CLP, District and Regional level to advance the policies of the GMB in the Labour Party. 
• Take part in election campaigns in support of Labour Candidates. 
• To encourage recruitment initiatives to increase the membership of the Labour Party. 

7) Training of GMB Representatives 
• Provide initial support training for newly elected GMB Representatives, and ensure that GMB Representatives receive subsequent training in line with GMB policy. 
• Prepare and conduct specific training courses using participative techniques. 

8) Administration 
• Organise own work load with the minimum of supervision to make effective use of time. 
• Work effectively with secretarial and clerical support staff. 
• Store and retrieve information, both on paper and using information technology, understanding the GMB computer system, including the nature and accuracy of stored data. 

The post requires: 
• A good knowledge of industrial relations, practices and procedures. 
• A knowledge of Employment Law sufficient to ensure that employers honour their legal obligations and members secure their legal rights, potting members and the GMB against legal action. 
• Effective communication skills, including report writing and public speaking. 
• An understanding of the GMB Rules and structure. 
• An understanding of the policies of the GMB, the TUC and the Labour Party. 

• Undertake other duties at the discretion of the Regional Secretary. 

• Organisers will be required to undertake training to improve their knowledge and skills to maintain a high standard of performance. They will also be encouraged to identify their own training needs so that these can be taken into account in their training programmes alongside the training requirements which are designed to meet the needs of the GMB