At the end of 2010, the GMB had 12,351 members in Northern Ireland, with 589,796 in Great Britain.
The union has nine regions, with Northern Ireland forming part of the North West and Irish region, established in January 2007. It has three industrial sections: commercial services, manufacturing and public services. Each section is headed by a national secretary. National secretaries and national officers report to a section national committee, which advises the central executive council. The council meets bi-monthly. The union has approximately 25,000 workplace organisers (formerly known as shop stewards.)
The union has existed for over 12 decades. Its origins lie in the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers, founded by Will Thorne on 31 March 1889. One of its aims was an eight-hour working day. Among the mergers which have taken place during its history was that in 1924 which gave rise to the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, and the 1982 merger which created the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union, from which GMB derives its name.
As well as being a member of ICTU, it is also affiliated with the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). The GMB is one of the three biggest unions affiliated with the Labour Party and was one of the unions to form the party. Eighty-five MPs are members of the union.
Current campaigns include:
• protecting the future of Southern Cross care homes;
• working for members regarding proposed public sector pension reform; and
• representing Translink workers in Northern Ireland, where some employees’ full-time employment is in doubt.
In his annual report to the GMB’s congress this year, General Secretary Paul Kenny stated that most of the union’s activities in the North West and Irish region “will be targeted at the public sector where, even though cuts will threaten jobs, we believe there is still significant potential for growth”. The current targets for the region include schools and the security sector.
Internationally, the GMB is affiliated to eight European industry federations and the European Trade Union Confederation. It is one of the few British trade unions organised at European level, with a permanent office in Brussels aimed at influencing EU legislation and initiatives.
Northern Ireland subscriptions for the union in 2010 stood at £1.2 million, with a total income (from Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic) of £74.8 million. Its expenditure was £53.5 million, and it has liabilities totaling £30.5 million.
General Secretary: Paul Kenny
Central Executive Council: President Mary Turner
North West and Irish Region Secretary: Paul McCarthy
Senior Officer for Northern Ireland: Eamonn Coy
Membership (2010): 12,351