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Thu, 3 December 2020

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Union demands urgent talks with Labour chiefs after staff slam party's 'toxic' culture

Union demands urgent talks with Labour chiefs after staff slam party's 'toxic' culture
3 min read

Trade union bosses have demanded "urgent" talks with Labour management after staff publicly condemned the party's response to the ongoing anti-semitism controversy.

In a sign of the plummeting morale among party workers, GMB members voted 124-4 in favour of a motion hitting out at the response by Jeremy Corbyn's office to last week's Panorama on the issue.

The programme accused aides to Jeremy Corbyn of interfering in anti-semitism cases, and heard former Labour staff claim their mental health had been affected by working for the party.

The GMB motion said: "As trade unionists, it is unacceptable for an employees workload or the culture of an organisation to cause staff to have breakdowns or to contemplate suicide.

"The fact that there is even a suggestion that this culture exists within the Labour Party is reprehensible and a source of great shame."

The motion was highly critical of the party's decision to dismiss the whistleblowers who spoke to the programme as "disaffected" opponents of the Labour leader.

It also hit out at the "obscene" decision to send lawyers' letters to those who broke gagging orders to speak out.

The motion said: "Anti-semitism is a cancer which will spread if given the freedom to do so. It should be condemned and challenged wherever it rears its head

"Whistleblowers do so at enormous personal risk and should be commended and supported, never attacked – particularly not by the Labour Party

"All employees or former employees, regardless of the organisation, should be free to act as whistleblowers without obscene threats of legal action."

It "condemned the Labour Party’s official response to the Panorama programme and the attacks on former staff who we have found to be committed, principled and honest".

The motion went on to "demand that the Labour Party apologises to former colleagues for the attacks launched on them by both the Labour Party officially and approved “outriders” over the Panorama programme which highlighted the problem of anti-semitism within the Labour Party". 

One member of staff said: "There is a toxic culture in the Labour party. One of fear and bullying.

"Those who speak out against anti-semitism are forced on sick leave and out of the building. Today, Labour staff said that we won’t stay quiet on anti-semitism or tolerate this pernicious culture any more.

"Jeremy has to listen. To move forward there has to be strategic changes at the top of the Labour party and that starts with his team."

A spokesperson for the GMB, which is one of the main trade unions affiliated to Labour, said: "GMB exists for our members, we’re led by them and that’s no different when it comes to the Labour Party as an employer.

"Our members have today expressed a number of serious concerns that must be addressed by Labour Party management. GMB's local branch representatives will be scheduling urgent meetings with Labour Party management to ensure the range of concerns tabled today are properly acted upon."

The union said it would be "offering additional support and representation" to members who have been asked to give evidence to the Equality and Human Right's Commission's inquiry into allegations that Labour discriminates against Jewish people.

A Labour spokesperson said the party's "comprehensive rebuttal of the Panorama programme did not in any way criticise Jewish members who have suffered anti-semitism".

"As we said after the programme aired, we will fully investigate any complaints alleging anti-semitic incidents reported by party members in interviews in the programme," they said.

"We stand in solidarity with Jewish people, and we’re taking decisive action to root out anti-semitism from our movement and society." 

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