Trade union backs calls for antisemites to face ‘full force of the law’

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Trade union backs calls for antisemites to face ‘full force of the law’

GMB leader Gary Smith supports motion calling for tough action, including against GMB members posting anti-Jewish hatred online

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

The GMB congress is taking place this week (Photo: GMB/YouTube)
The GMB congress is taking place this week (Photo: GMB/YouTube)

One of Britain’s biggest trade unions has unanimously passed a motion calling for antisemites, including those found guilty amongst its own membership, to “face the full force of the law.”

In a move backed by the GMB’s General Secretary Gary Smith, the union, which has 600, 000 members across nearly all industrial sectors, committed itself to a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Jewish racism.

Motion 213 was backed by the union’s leadership across the country during GMB Congress in Harrogate, Yorkshire, on Monday.

It stated: “This congress strongly challenges the disturbing rise in antisemitism across the UK.

“This unacceptable behaviour and the perpetrators should be subjected to the full force of the law.

“Where such behaviour may be present from any member of GMB Union, including social media posts, our Union should take immediate action to investigate and apply appropriate measures to address this within rule.”

OPINION: Like our earliest trailblazers, we must never fear calling out antisemitism

GMB leader Smith, who has been deeply critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s failure on antisemitism, and made a point of reaching out to Jewish Labour activists, said after the motion was passed: “Antisemitism is a scourge in our society, and the GMB is clear that we won’t tolerate it.

“We stand firm against antisemitism in this union. There is no room for hatred in our union. Those who commit it should face the full force of the law.”

In an op-ed for Jewish News, he detailed the proud history of Jewish involvement with the union.

But he also wrote: “We have to recognise antisemitism within our own ranks, and not be afraid to call it what it is. It flies in the face of our historic ties to the Jewish community – and in the face of what is right.”

Speakers in favour of the motion were applauded by delegates, including GMB Redbridge’s Stephen Jones, who warned that on occasion “anti-Zionist motivations” could stray into anti-Jewish racism.

Another speaker Unmesh Desai, a London Assembly member, warned that what started with hatred of Jewish people had historically turned into wider racist hate.

Speaker for the union’s executive committee Margaret Gregg spoke of the horror of seeing Jewish members afraid in the Labour Party under its previous leadership.

The motion on antisemitism, which was submitted by the GMB’s Redbridge branch, called for a review of  current GMB policies for the handling of hate crimes and all forms of discrimination to ensure they are fit for purpose.

A motion calling for similar focus on rising Islamophobia was also passed by delegates on Monday.

On Tuesday, the Jewish Labour Movement will stage antisemitism training for union to understand the issues around rising anti-Jewish hatred.

Both Mike Katz, JLM’s national chair, and Rebecca Filer, its national organiser, will be attending the conference to conduct the training session, which is the first time the organisation have been invited into a trade union conference.

Katz told Jewish News: “The GMB have been strong allies of the JLM and Jewish Labour members in our fight against antisemitism in the party.

“Under Gary Smith’s strong, principled leadership, they are clear that their union won’t tolerate anti-Jewish racism – this is underlined by their invitation for us to come to their Congress to deliver our antisemitism training for their members.”

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