Pub tenants deserve to have their voices heard on all the key issues affecting the trade. They deserve to have a strong and robust trade group speaking up on their behalf. For too long there has been a vacuum here.
The BII has talked about setting up a body to represent licensees — and this can only be a good thing. The Fair Pint campaign has done an admirable job in raising all manner of issues in the past couple of years — and has been successful in gaining political attention and driving a reform agenda.
Sometimes the Fair Pinters can get a little excitable, but they tend to have an arguable case grounded in a deep understanding of the sector. You don't have to agree with them on everything, but there's no doubt that they will be able to marshal a coherent argument.
What has become increasingly clear in the past six months, however, is that the GMB union, which has been persuading pub tenants to take out subscriptions, is to be treated with suspicion.
Time after time it has shown itself to have embarrassing gaps in its knowledge — and gets easily found out. Even worse, it has made promises to disaffected pub tenants that it has not kept.
It argued against all the evidence that it could legally organise a ballot of tenants with a view to taking industrial action — a mass switching off of Brulines was suggested by the GMB. Many tenants may have joined the GMB on this basis earlier this year.
Observers warned that the GMB would not be able to deliver on its promises because tenants are self-employed. At a meeting for tenants I attended, GMB organiser Paul Maloney told me: "I don't give a sh*t whether this is legal or not."
In the event and rather predictably, the GMB was leading tenants up the garden path — and there was no ballot. Maloney argued that an immediate £12,000 reduction in rent at all tenanted pubs was the only thing that would prevent GMB ratcheting up action.
At the same meeting I attended, Maloney also promised to organise a protest outside Brulines' Stockton headquarters involving 100 fiddlers — it sounded unlikely and so it has proven. Coherent and well-argued challenges to the status quo are to be welcomed — grossly misleading and error-riddled rubbish from the GMB is wasting everybody's time.
It's got to the stage where every GMB press release on the pub sector is treated with deep suspicion on the Morning Advertiser's news desk. At the time of the proposed strike action, I argued that the GMB's promises were either cynically cavalier or high-stakes brinkmanship. The promises were shamefully misleading.
Pub tenants should not put their trust in the GMB — it has proven that it doesn't deserve it.