VIDEO: General secretary Matt Wrack in bad-tempered clash with MPs after being quizzed in parliament over use of non-disclosure agreements inside FBU

Matt Wrack appearing before MPs in parliament yesterday (5 March 2024)

THE GENERAL SECRETARY of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Matt Wrack, has been challenged in parliament over the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the union – a scandal that was first exposed by this blog and has since been covered in the pages of Private Eye magazine.

This blog revealed how, in recent years, a string of employees – including three elected national officers – departed the FBU with NDAs (also known as ‘gagging clauses’) and pay-offs after making claims of mistreatment. Huge sums of members’ money were spent on buying the silence of these employees.

Until now, the union’s leadership has remained tight-lipped about the affair. However, appearing yesterday (5 March) at a session of the home affairs select committee – which had been called to examine workplace culture in the fire and rescue service – Wrack was asked by Labour MP Diana Johnson (the committee’s chair) if the FBU had ever used NDAs to silence members of staff. Johnson had quite accurately reminded Wrack that such a practice had been condemned by the Trade Union Congress (of which Wrack himself is the current president).

In response to the questioning, Wrack became noticeably hostile and appeared reluctant to give a straight answer – prompting Ms Johnson to probe even further and ask why he was being so defensive.

Eventually Wrack was forced to admit that the union had used NDAs to silence employees. However, he also claimed that he was not aware of any cases of alleged bullying within the FBU that had led to an NDA being signed.

This blog showed the video of the exchange to a former employee who had departed the union with an NDA after making a complaint of mistreatment. This person told us, ‘I don’t see how he can possibly defend that statement. Several employees left the union with NDAs after complaining that they had been mistreated. There is no way Wrack can deny that.’

In fact, this blog has seen evidence which appears to flatly contradict Wrack’s claim. For example, in June 2023, we reported that we had seen a copy of the notes of a meeting at which national officer Paul Woolstenholmes made a straightforward allegation that he had been routinely bullied by Wrack. Around the same time, Woolstenholmes went on long-term sick leave and, within a year, he had departed the union with a non-disclosure agreement and £109,000 pay-off.

Wrack should therefore be called upon to defend his claim. If it turns out that he misled parliament, the consequences could be very serious.

The video of the exchange between Wrack and Ms Johnson appears below (the ‘play’ button can be found in the bottom left-hand corner of the video).

We will leave FBU members to make up their own minds about the whole spectacle. But we have no hesitation in saying again what we have been saying for some time: Wrack’s time is up. We are witnessing one scandal after another at the top of the union, and it cannot go on like this. It’s time for change.