Sophie Hay
Posted on 3 Aug 2021

Trade union pulls funding for Labour party after caretaker "callously" sacked

The GMB, a national trade union with members in nearly all industrial sectors, has removed its financial support for the Labour party after a caretaker for the Labour-run Islington council was sacked. This comes at a controversial time, as Labour recently announced their plans to improve workers' rights on a significant scale.

The incident in question surrounds Gary Bolister, a caretaker who had worked for Islington council for 24 years. In November last year, Mr Bolister took place in a protest against Islington road closures, which was filmed and live-streamed on Facebook. During the clip, in which Mr Bolister appeared but was not responsible for filming, an Islington Councillor was inadvertently filmed within her home. The video was immediately stopped when the cameraman realised, and Mr Bolister offered to write a letter of apology to the Councillor. Despite this, Islington council dismissed Mr Bolister and did not uphold his appeal.

In support of its member, GMB union has withdrawn its funding of the Labour party. Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary, said: "As a union, we will continue to campaign for justice and fairness for our colleague Gary Bolister who, after 24 years of loyal and committed service to the residents of Islington, has been so callously dismissed by the decision-makers at Islington Council in this way.". GMB has asked the council to reconsider its position and re-engage Mr Bolister. Until this happens, it seems that GMB will not support the Labour-run council. This is a significant move by the GMB which last year donated £1.4 million to the Labour Party, with £50,000 going to Sadiq Khan's successful campaign to be re-elected as mayor of London.

This will be a blow to the Labour Party, which has recently announced its new policy to improve employees' rights by creating a single status of "worker". The plan will involve amalgamating the current categories of "worker" and "employee" to create one single (and hopefully more simplified) category of "worker".

Currently, to qualify for some rights such as protection from unfair dismissal, an employee must have been working for their employer for at least 2 years. Labour's proposed new status would remove this requirement and provide protections for all workers from day one of their employment. This would be accompanied by further day-one rights for this new, wider category, including Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the National Minimum Wage (NMW), holiday pay and paid parental leave.

Off the back of the pandemic and the prevalent shift to agile working, the Labour Party has also announced that it would make flexible working available to all workers from day one of employment. It would be a legal requirement for employers to accommodate flexible working requests unless it can be shown that it is not practicable. This right would include access to flexible hours, compressed or staggered hours and flexibility around childcare and family responsibilities, such as the school run and school holidays.

These new proposals would significantly improve workers' rights, particularly for those on short-term contracts. The policy would help reduce this issue and ensure great improvement in workers' rights.