There are serious challenges facing our industries. Our railways, transport systems and travel trade have all been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and we are expecting significant headcount reductions and funding restrictions or cuts in the coming year. In many places we are seeing this already.
These are real and present threats to our organisation and require a serious pro-active response from our union so that we can continue to represent and support our members. In light of this, our TSSA conference in September 2021 authorised the General Secretary to continue talks with the Boilermakers. The talks were entered into based on the principles set out below.
Meet the Boilermakers
Just what is the Boilermakers union? And for that matter, what’s a Boilermaker?
Our union was born out of the industrial revolution in America and the demand for steam power and rail travel.
Our legacy is deeply rooted in the railroad industry and steeped in resilience and forward progress.
Organized in 1880, we are one of the oldest unions in North America. And while we got our start in steam and built many of the locomotives that powered rail freight and passenger service well into the mid-1900s; over 141 years, we’ve evolved, adding the iron ship industry and power generation to our repertoire, and building more and more and more into our name to cover a wide range of industries benefitting people everywhere.
Boilermakers are the craftsmen and women who Build.
And make North America move.
We continue to maintain and repair locomotives to keep the railroad running.
We also build passenger boats for pleasure trips.
As well as making and maintaining tankers, cargo ships, icebreakers, tugboats and commercial fishing boats.
We’re the welders and riggers who make sure the lights on across the continent.
We make massive vessels that hold liquids and gasses under extreme pressures and temperatures.
We mill talc.
We produce cement, gypsum and lime building materials.
We make the highest quality commercial kitchen stoves.
And beer taps.
Just to name a few things.
We’re the essential workers who warm your home in the winter, make the products you use in your daily life and get you where you need to go.
From transportation to plastics to medicines to green energy, we’ve had a hand in it all.
And our union, the Boilermakers union, represents an elite membership of skilled craftsmen and women and industrial workers who are trained and committed to simply stand apart as the best.
We even made the first electric Maid of the Mist boats; the mighty ferries that shuttle tourists against the raging up-river current to marvel at the majesty of Niagara Falls.
…And we made the gleaming segments of the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch.
…And the machinery that carved out the Panama Canal.
…And the aluminum-based fuel for the Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters.
…And the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory that allowed scientists to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
…We’ve even brought history back to life restoring steam behemoths, like the Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy.
We’re proud of our diverse portfolio of work and our role in history.
And we continue to look ahead, to embrace change and to grow into advancing technologies and new industries.
As an International union, we represent nearly 50,000 members across the U.S. and Canada, and we actively participate in the global labor movement through membership in organizations such as IndustriALL Global Union, the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Council, as well as forming strategic global partnerships with like-minded unions.
And, our union has long been politically active, with a permanent presence in Washington, D.C. We aggressively promote and defend the rights of Boilermakers—and all working people.
We’re a democratic organization with a strong constitution that guides our leaders.
Our International President, International Secretary-Treasurer and five International Vice Presidents oversee three operational areas: Construction Sector Operations, Industrial Sector Operations and Bank Sector Operations.
Construction and Industrial Sector Operations encompass the work Boilermakers do.
Bank Sector Operations focuses on our members’—and labor’s—money and financial opportunities through the flagship Bank of Labor.
Bank of Labor is the only union majority-owned, union-staffed and union-dedicated bank in the United States.
Established in 1924 as a Kansas City area community bank committed to being a “bank working men and women could trust with their hard-earned money,” the bank’s mission has expanded to serve the financial needs and shared values of all of organized labor.
As the bank’s founder and principal owner and largest shareholder, the Boilermakers union has been a partner in putting labor’s money back to work for unions and their members—safeguarding hard-earned union funds and financing union offices, training centers and other projects.
Today Bank of Labor thrives as a well-respected financial institution and offers services to unions and labor allies in all 50 states.
With deposits of nearly $900 million, Bank of Labor offers business banking, lending and treasury services, financial management and fiduciary services, as well as union member banking.
It is the “Bank of Labor for the greater labor movement,” born of integrity, a testament to the endurance of the North American labor movement itself and an example of our commitment to investing in ideas that help union members while advancing labor’s work together.
As a progressive, forward-thinking union, the Boilermakers union has established other programs and trusts that are vital to Boilermakers’ quality of life – both during their working lives and retirement.
The Boilermaker National Funds Office administers pension, health and welfare and annuity benefits and works to ensure members and their families receive the care and support they need.
Other programs prepare new Boilermakers for their jobs and make sure they have the most up-to-date and even specialized training.
Our four-year Boilermaker National Apprenticeship program is widely recognized as one of the best training programs in the United States. Apprentices receive free instruction and the opportunity to learn while they earn.
We also host several well-attended annual education conferences for Boilermakers.
We participate in University labor programs.
We founded and are an active participant in the Helmets to Hardhats program.
And in 2019, we launched a new Boilermaker Women at Work program.
We’re a union that’s committed to innovation, and we’re always looking ahead for our members today and tomorrow.
That’s why we created the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund—our highly successful strategic plan for securing Boilermaker work and growing the union for a strong and prosperous future.
Strategies within the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund are:
Our M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund is already committing $15 to $20 million per year toward these strategies, and we’re seeing results:
- Creating new, sustainable work opportunities for Boilermakers
- Creating a more competitive bidding environment for our contractors
- Increasing the skilled construction sector membership of our craft
- Recovering lost work opportunities
- Branching into new industries and diversifying our work
- Refocusing on stewardship of all Boilermaker work jurisdiction
And significantly elevating our generation of contributions to our pension fund.
Through the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund, we are investing in our union, and our union is investing in our future.
As we’ve evolved over many eras, ever innovating and ever keeping any eye ahead to what might be next, the Boilermakers union has much to look forward to:
Continuing to protect and defend Boilermakers’ rights and enforce contracts
To growing our presence in traditional and new industries
To aggressively organizing workers and recruiting new members
To adding more training facilities and programs
To broadening opportunities for women, minorities and veterans
To expanding labor’s power through Bank of Labor
And to building more mutually-beneficial relationships….
…with organizations like yours.
We’re stronger together.
We’re better together.
And in partnership with us—the Boilermakers union—we’re forward thinking.
"They want to see me shine" TSSA's E-mix group meet the Boilermakers' Erica Stewart & Martin Williams - be inspired!
Frequently asked questions from our members on the proposed merger with the Boilermakers union.
This conference is called to handle one item of business only: merger proposals between TSSA and the Boilermakers.
Information from the reps briefing sessions held 14 and 17 January 2022
Email sent to all reps on 14 December 2021 regarding indicative ballot on merger
An update on progress of merger talks with Boilermakers based on 17 principles.
Read the submissions and answers from the consultation exercise.
Questions and Answers on our proposed merger with the Boilermakers
These are the 17 principles on which the discussions with the Boilermakers are based on, as agreed by TSSA conference September 2021:
- Post merger our union would be a district within the IBB and promoted as “TSSA, part of the IBB family” and would form part of a new IBB Railroad, Transport and Travel Sector. For the purposes of this report our union post merger will be referred to as “The District”.
- The District will have delegated authority for all industrial, policy and political decisions within The District and as such would be autonomous in its decision making. Provisions will also be put in place to ensure compliance with Irish trade union legislation so that all industrial and political decisions affecting Ireland are made in Ireland as is currently the case. The District will continue to affiliate to the TUC, STUC, WTUC, ICTU, the British and Irish Labour parties and through the IBB, to the ITF and ETF.
- The IBB Constitution will contain a clause to give effect to The District and to the existence of The District sub-section to the IBB Constitution. The District sub-section will allow for a District Biennial Conference (DBC) and delegates for such will be elected in a similar way as those currently elected to our Annual Delegate Conference. The DBC will be the only body capable of making changes to the rules of The District sub-section of the IBB rule book subject to endorsement by the IBB Executive Board and will also be responsible for setting policy for the District.
- It will be made clear to members that whilst the IBB Constitution applies to all members of the IBB, The District sub-section of that Constitution will be relevant to members of The District only.
- The District will have clearly defined rights within the IBB democratic structures with participation at the IBB Convention and in the annual conference for the new IBB Railroad, Transport and Travel Sector.
- The District will have an elected National Secretary for Britain and Ireland (National Secretary hereafter) who will have the right to speak but not vote at all District Committee meetings if he/she so chooses, however, all industrial, policy and political decisions within The District belong with The District Committee and/or District Biennial Conference - except for Ireland as is currently the case within our union. This is in line with the current constitution of the IBB which delegates autonomy to various subordinate bodies of the IBB in the conduct of their affairs, including organising activities, the negotiation and administration of collective bargaining agreements, and engaging in economic activity to that end where not done by the IBB itself.
- The National Secretary will control and be responsible for all staff matters relating to all organising staff of The District who will be based in Britain and Ireland.
- The District will be managed by a District Committee, which will meet at least once every three months. However, the District Committee can hold special meetings to consider emergency issues – the National Secretary and The District President and District Vice-President (the National Officers) have the power to decide when to hold meetings over and above quarterly ones.
- Members of the District Committee will be elected by members within the District constituencies every four years from nominations sent in by branches within each District constituency. Branches will only be entitled to nominate one member for each seat within their constituency. Each candidate will require at least two nominations. The National Secretary will receive general direction from the District Committee and consequently will not have a vote on District Committee business.
- For Leadership Elections purposes (i.e. Chapter IV of TULR(C)A 1992) and drawing comparison with our current structures, the District Committee will effectively be similar to our current Executive Committee and the National Secretary role will also be similar to the current General Secretary but only be responsible for organising staff based in Britain and Ireland. Leadership election ballots for the District Committee will be conducted within set constituencies whilst those for the District President, Vice-President and National Secretary would see the entire District membership vote. All elections will be based on one member one vote ballots and restricted to members in Britain and Ireland.
- The District Committee/BDC will not have the power to make decisions or set out policies relating to issues that might affect the IBB as a whole.
- The District Committee will be allocated a budget each year which will include all of the funds generated from the membership fees of members in Britain and Ireland. All decisions in respect of the management of that budget will belong with the District Committee who may delegate day to day spending decisions to the National Secretary. The IBB through its Secretary-Treasurer and their accounting department will ensure that administrative and professional support is provided to the District to ensure accounts are maintained in good order.
- Capital assets currently owned by TSSA will transfer to IBB, however, The District will continue to manage these assets and the returns from these assets can be allocated to the budget of The District for their use or be re-invested. Consequently, The District will elect its own Trustees to invest and manage these assets following consultation with the IBB Secretary-Treasurer.
- The IBB has a number of dedicated funds including those for members education and organising which the District will have access to. These funds contain significant resources running into several tens of millions of dollars per year. These funds could for example be accessed to finance the equivalent of TSSA’s current Strategic Organising and Campaigns Team. In addition, the IBB can provide financial assistance to the District.
- Audited Reports and Accounts of the IBB as a whole would be published as per the IBB Constitution and as such would be available to all members and the Certification Officer (CO). The District will maintain financial records relating to all its income and expenditure and these will be the subject of report to the Certification Officer and members of the IBB within The District on an annual basis. IBB would file an Annual Return with the CO in respect of The District membership (and audit) and finances etc, just as our union currently does.
- The IBB will employ business, administrative and support staff to facilitate the effective and efficient operation of the International, its Districts and Sectors. These staff will be located where required after taking account of the need to ensure that the location of staff will be decided on the basis of their cost effectiveness and members needs as the IBB will operate over many different time zones and countries. An agreement will be reached with the IBB on what contribution the District needs to make for this support but this is expected to be far less than the costs currently incurred by our union to undertake these tasks due to economies of scale.
- Much of the current TSSA Rule Book would be transcribed into The District Rule Book to ensure that for example our existing branch structure stays in place.
We will publish more information to these web pages as it becomes available.
Link to member email: All-member email 20 September 2021 titled 'Our union’s future: in your hands'
Member advice from our Helpdesk
If you are a TSSA member and are looking for advice or assistance in connection with your employment or membership, you can contact our Members’ Helpdesk.
We can advise on a range of workplace issues including; discipline and grievance hearing, maternity rights and redundancy.
Helpdesk opening hours: 09:00 - 17:00 Monday - Thursday | 09:00 - 16:00 Friday
Please note: we cannot undertake to provide advice to non-members, to members of other unions, or to members on behalf of their partners/friends. If you are not yet a member, please join TSSA online.