"..an instinctive focus on the human side of Enterprise."
Devonshire House Network Tim Roache

30.04.19 Speaker Event – Tim Roache – Gen Sec of the GMB Union

30 APR 2019

Speaker Event – Tim Roache – Gen Sec of the GMB Union

by Devonshire House Network


The GMB is a general trade union in the UK with more than 631,000 members who work in nearly all industrial sectors, in retail, security, schools, distribution and the utilities, social care, the NHS, the ambulance service and local government.

Tim Roache

Tim Roache is General Secretary of the GMB union. We are delighted to welcome him to Devonshire House to talk with us about GMB, its work, its role and aims in a changing UK and its challenges. We will publish a more detailed Agenda shortly

Read more about Tim below.

An Approach that works well

Following the model we adopted when Lord Browne spoke to us at the end of 2017 and when Professor Vernon Bogdanor and Jeremy Hughes, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, talked with us this year, we are planning – subject to Tim’s views – to follow a structured conversation/ discussion format – we think this enables key issues to dominate and for a greater level of participation and interaction from those attending. We are delighted that Martin Warren has agreed to manage this part of the Event. Martin Warren is a Partner in lawyers Eversheds Sutherland and Practice Group Head since 2005 – responsible for all Evershed’s work in their Labour Relations Practice covering Labour Relations, Labour Law, Trade Unions, and Labour Relations Strategy


The primary task of a Trade Union is to look after its members. GMB is a founder member of the Labour Party and is its third largest affiliate and its mission was the same now as it was then – to react effectively to exploitation in the workplace and promoting better pay and conditions. It does this by close personal attention to its members’ needs and being active at all levels of the political spectrum. Since the 28th February 1900, GMB has been active at all levels of the Labour Party including ward, constituency, local authority district, regional, national and European level.

Tens of thousands of GMB members are also members of the Labour Party, and thousands of these GMB members represent GMB in the constituency bodies of the Party. There are over 2,000 GMB members who are Labour Party local councillors

No other way works better than this.

Thinking Back

Devonshire House Members of longer standing than most will recall Tim’s predecessor, Paul Kenny, talking with us in 2012 (we think) and, more recently, Len McLuskey in 2015. Len’s message was that – at that time – the trade union movement did not have a political party to represent the substantial body of trade union members.

What is also useful to remember is that the very first Devonshire House Meeting was held in Brighton in 1976 and their Speaker was Ray Gunter, Minister of Labour at that time. Devonshire House was created by industrial relations driven HR Directors who spent most of their working lives anticipating, managing, settling industrial disputes and clearing-up-afterwards. Is it OK to say that those fire-fighting days have been replaced by creative team-work dialogue about better and more prosperous times for all? Or not?

But… times change.

Better Everything

Everyone seeks better living conditions and lifestyles – which need more money and more time to enjoy them. Rampant new technologies are disruptive – many jobs disappear. New types of jobs emerge – but not as many. But those offering personal services suffer most. These are the ones who can’t be replaced by technology; these are the ones who are pressured most to deliver more and keep the costs down. Many of these are GMB Members. Providers of capital and those they pay to get demanding returns on their invested capital always see the cost of people as controllable and variable.

This is the scenario and minefield that Tim Roache is leading his Members through. He also has to keep aware of new legislation, new uses of data, political climates and, it needs to be said, tempered with a broadening social conscience.

More about Tim Roache

Tim Roache grew up in London, where his father was a shop steward on the docks. In 1979, he began working for in the post room of the GMB, over time being promoted to become a legal officer, then an organiser, and final, General Secretary

This is what, Laura Kuenssberg BBC Political Editor has said about him:-

It’s rare these days that political figures are willing to say exactly what they think in public. But the union movement, in the recently elected boss of the GMB, Tim Roache, might just have found themselves someone who might. He’s worked for the union for decades, starting as a teenager in the post room. But after years of working his way up, now he’s in charge, Roache is clearly determined to change things. He thinks unions must “freshen up” – he wants to make his union, and perhaps the whole movement, more relevant to his members and politics in a wider sense.”

Generally – and like all organisations – particularly voluntary organisations – Trade Unions need to manage themselves wisely; do things that keep their Members (customers) happy and recruit new members, particularly young ones – all part of planning for the future.

The philosophy and political thinking ….

….. of Tim Roache and GMB is important and these are some indicators:-

  • GMB believes that with the right policies based on values held by GMB members, the Labour Party is the best chance for a fairer deal for GMB members. As a GMB member you get a special Labour Party membership rate of only £22.50 a year – or £1.88 a month.
  • GMB is unique in being the only British trade union, and one of a handful of pioneer unions at European level, with a permanent office in Brussels. The purpose of the GMB European Office is to influence European legislation and initiatives to the benefit of our members and their families, and provide them with greater rights, protection and opportunities in their work and lives.
  • Brexit notwithstanding, as the European Social Model comes under increasing threat with EU Governments putting labour market flexibility above workers’ rights, it is vital that European trade unions work together at European level to protect and promote our social Europe
  • There has been rapid growth of legal advice and representation of members at tribunals and a focus on equality and diversity.
  • The importance of training has also been emphasised with government funding a scheme where workplace learning representatives have been developed. Also, helping their Members to adapt to the work of the future is now becoming mainstream.
  • GMB needs more representation in the private sector, to recruit young workers- but still look after older members – and to correct regional imbalances

Here’s a glimpse into Tim’s philosophy and thinking from September 2017:-

“Jeremy Corbyn’s (spelling mistake) speech laid out a vision for our country that people are crying out for. “Tinkering around the edges with a broken economy won’t deliver the change people so desperately need.” Today, Labour showed they are in touch with the real lives and frustrations of people who shouldn’t have to work so hard for so little. Jeremy showed he’s not messing about – he wants to fundamentally change how our economy and society works. ”For the many, not the few” is exactly right, and it’s such a contrast to an out of touch Tory party that has a vested interest in propping up a status quo that delivers more for millionaires than for the millions.”

Date & Time

30 April 2019


Central London
Location TBC