Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB Union has come out on the defensive over accusations of a no strike agreement between G4S, who provide security for Job Centres and the Union.

This certainly sounds an emphatic denial but given recognition and collective bargaining agreements have a shelf life of much more than four years the statement that Tim Roache has not authorised a no strike agreement is not the same as saying the there are no agreements although it does mean (if true) that what is an woeful breach of basic trade union principles – the protection of the right to withdraw labour – did not happen directly on his watch.

So, is there a no strike agreement? 

The agreement between G4S and GMB has not been published so there will always be an element of doubt. The impetus for the most recent allegations is the release of an FOI response from DWP (whose offices G4S security secure) dated 2 October 2019 (so recent) to PCS Assistant General Secretary John Moloney that confirm that “We [DWP] confirm that G4S has confirmed to DWP that it has a no strike agreement with GMB. The no strike agreement is the G4S Security Services UK national recognition agreement.”


Having the DWP tell the world that they have been told there is a no strike deal is not indisputable evidence there is one, but it certainly points strongly in that direction.

The recognition agreement between G4S and GMB appears to date from 2006, and at the time was described as “landmark” and was signed at the House of Commons with Allan Black signing on behalf of GMB. Mr Black commented at the time that

As the trade union for the vitally important private security industry we welcome this new agreement as a landmark. The security industry is in the midst of huge change with the impact of statutory licensing and the working time regulations. This agreement will enable the union to play a full part with the Company in managing that change. We look forward to working constructively with G4S to have the professionalism and expertise of the industry properly recognised and fully rewarded. We expect other major employers in the sector to take the same mature views as G4S and to offer all those in the industry the chance to be represented at the table by an independent, professional and forward looking trade union.

There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, no reference to there being as no strike clause in this agreement in Mr Black’s comments. However, there is strong evidence that there was. In GMB’s 2015 Congress motion 164, titled “G4S SECURE SERVICES RECOGNITION AGREEMENT” was carried with qualification.  So what were the union instructed to do by Congress (which represents the wishes of the membership)?

Motion 164, which was put forward by the Scottish Security and Aviation branch, read (page 57 of the agenda):

This Congress calls upon GMB to seek to renegotiate the existing recognition Agreement with G4S Secure Services with a view to deleting the “no strike” clause contained therein.

Congress believes that G4S has acted in bad faith by reneging on its agreement with GMB to pay for SIA licences and the time has come for our members to fight to preserve their existing terms and conditions, indeed we should be fighting to improve those terms and conditions, not meekly submitting to worsening them.

Congress believes that no fight with G4S can be won whilst the no strike clause exists.

This is I think conclusive evidence that there was such a no strike agreement with G4S because, if it were not the motion would never have made it on the agenda as being factually inaccurate. It is also worth noting that this conference was in June 2015 and so predates by a few month’s Tim Roache’s election as General Secretary.

Tim Roache’s election as General Secretary was in November 2015 and while it is not clear precisely when in 2016 he actually took up post it was some time earlier than 2 June 2016 since at that time he was described as having taken up post earlier that year.

This may be of some relevance because any doubt that the no strike agreement refers to the ‘landmark’ 2006 agreement is removed when in June 2016 GMB published a progress update (see page 24) on what it had done to renegotiate the G4S no strike agreement (page one says it is accurate “as of June 2016” and so during Tim Roache’s tenure as General Secretary, albeit early on). The response records responsibility for removing the no strike clause fell to the “Section National Secretary, Commercial Services Section”. The full text is worth quoting as officers of the GMB union themselves explicitly accept there is a no strike agreement in place with G4S:

The motion was carried with the following qualifications: It refers to the 2006 recognition agreement for G4S Guarding. GMB has made every effort to renegotiate this agreement but the company is resisting any change to the clause referred to. The motion is correct to call for the “no strike” clause to be deleted. However, the motion is incorrect in suggesting that GMB members are meekly submitting to having their terms and conditions worsened and not fighting G4S over their proposal to stop paying the SIA licence fee. It is also inaccurate to state that “no fight with G4S can be won whilst the no strike clause exists”. GMB members win against their employers by getting organised, growing the Union, campaigning on issues and negotiating improvements. This is at the heart of GMB@Work and applies as much to (G4S) security workers as to any other group of members. Section Response: A new recognition is being negotiated with G4S with the hope of agreement being reached by March 2016.

Given the update was published three months after the “March 2016” target date it is clear that there was no new deal negotiated at that time. The fact that in October 2019 DWP were still saying they had been told there was a no strike deal in place this very strongly suggests (although does not definitively prove) that there is indeed a no strike deal in place with GMB and G4S and that its existence was known at senior levels within GMB after Congress had instructed the union to remove the clause. As such, the concerns are unambiguously not “some shite”.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter no strike deals have absolutely no place in any responsible trade union’s industrial strategy and I hope the GMB – and all other unions for that matter – take steps to ensure that any such deals that are in place are removed which will also require a thorough audit by the unions of all there multiple recognition agreements.

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