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John McDonnell defends Keith Henderson against dismissal as officer of the GMB

13th November 2013

John McDonnell defends Keith Henderson against dismissal as officer of the GMB

John McDonnell has written to Ed Miliband to express his concerns of the possible involvement of Mr Miliband’s office that has led to the discriminatory treatment that Keith Henderson has received by his former employer the GMB Union. He has also written to Paul Kenny repeating his offer of mediation.

Email from John McDonnell MP to Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, 12/11/13

Dear Ed,

In all likelihood you will not be aware of what has happened to Keith Henderson, who was a GMB representative with responsibility for staff at Parliament.

Keith was a tremendously hard working GMB officer, who was totally committed to the union and the interests of its members.

On the day of the co-ordinated industrial action on pensions in November 2011 Keith did a great job in organising picket lines at Parliament and I joined those picket lines. The atmosphere on the picket line was good natured and in the best traditions of the trade union movement of solidarity. Many Labour MPs supported the strike and rightfully respected the picket lines.

This appears to have upset somebody in your office and it is believed that someone from your office or the party or representing you, contacted Paul Kenny of the GMB or a member of his staff to complain that MPs were being urged by Keith and GMB members not to cross the picket line.

Could you confirm whether this took place and whether any member of your staff or party official or representing you contacted Paul Kenny or a member of his staff in this way?

Since then Keith has experienced real problems in the union and was eventually dismissed from his post within the union.

It has now been found at a recent Employment Tribunal that ‘a substantial part of the reasoning behind’ Keith’s dismissal ‘was because of his philosophical belief and was an effective cause of his dismissal.’

Keith’s philosophical belief is described by the Employment Tribunal as being ‘left wing democratic socialism.’

This must be the first time a trade union, and possibly any employer, has been found to have considered a person being a left wing democratic socialist as part of the reasoning for sacking him.

I have written to Paul Kenny to appeal to him to review this matter and reinstate Keith as an officer of the union.

I would be extremely concerned if a person from your office or from the party or representing you was involved in complaining to the GMB about Keith’s actions and in any way contributed to the treatment he subsequently endured within the union.

I would welcome your response on this matter.



Email from John McDonnell MP to Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB Union, 12/11/13
. Dear Paul,

You will that I wrote to you on 18th October appealing to you to reinstate Keith Henderson and then again on the same day to offer any assistance in mediation to resolve this matter.

I am writing to ask whether you have come to a decision on my offer of assistance in mediation.

Best wishes,


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