Union boss Edmonds accused of bullying

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The Independent Online
JOHN EDMONDS, the leader of one of the country's biggest unions and the scourge of bad bosses, is facing charges of bullying and sex discrimination.

The accusations against Mr Edmonds, general secretary of the 700,000- strong GMB general union, emerge on the eve of the TUC annual conference, amid claims that he presides over an organisation in which "harassment and intimidation" are widespread.

The GMB leader is due to face an employment tribunal hearing in January, where he will be accused of victimising a senior secretary. Elaine Wright, who worked at the union as a PA, told the Independent on Sunday that Mr Edmonds "screamed" at her, stopped her pay and refused to allow her to go on holiday after she took time off because of stress. Last week, Mr Edmonds hosted a conference on stress in the workplace.

The case by Ms Wright, who was a shop steward at the GMB headquarters, will be brought under sex discrimination law. She claims that she was given menial tasks to perform when she came back from maternity leave. On one occasion, police were called to the union's headquarters after she was sent hate mail and a "living will" by the "Voluntary Euthanasia Society". Ms Wright believes the sender was a senior GMB officer, although there is no suggestion that it was Mr Edmonds.

At the TUC conference in Brighton next week the GMB leader will be greeted with a demonstration by his members against bullying in the union. In particular, they will draw attention to the alleged harassment of nine officials in the union's West Midlands region who claim they have been repeatedly "humiliated" by Ken Gregory, the regional secretary.

Mr Edmonds is understood to have blocked an independent investigation of the claims against Mr Gregory.

A spokesman for the GMB said that in recent months Mr Edmonds, his friends and colleagues had been the victims of a concerted campaign of "smears and innuendoes". The attempt to "rehash" the allegations was clearly designed to do maximum damage to Mr Edmonds and the GMB on the eve of the TUC conference.

He said that the GMB would "fervently deny" the accusations made by Ms Wright and that the case would be "vigorously contested".

Despite repeated requests, no formal allegations had been submitted against Mr Gregory via the region's procedures for dealing with grievances.