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TSSA General Secretary Election 2023

The process is underway to elect TSSA union’s next General Secretary.


The process is underway to elect our union’s next General Secretary - with members voting to decide who will lead our union.  

Following the initial nomination stage in which our Branches and the Executive Committee nominated candidates, we have three people on the ballot paper.  

Your Executive Committee candidate, Maryam Eslamdoust, has also received nominations from BTP Staff, London & Southern Retired, North East Operations, Southeastern Metro, TfL Central, Wales No.1, West Scotland General.

Duncan Bates has received nominations from Crewe & Cheshire General, Lancs & Cumbria General, Lancs & Cumbria Retired, LU MATS and Operating Managers, Merseyside General. 

Bonnie Craven has been nominated by Euston, London Bus & Rail Operators, London South West & General, London Metropolitan, Midlands General, Network Rail London South, North East General. 

  • Date for issue of Ballot packs: 25 August 2023 
  • Closing date for receipt of voting papers: 22 September 2023 

Independent scrutineers, Civica, will carry out the election. 

This is your union, so make sure you use your vote and decide who is best placed to take our union forward.

Update 19 September 2023 - Irish Ballots

We have identified issues with ballots arriving late to members in the Republic of Ireland. We are seeking to identify what, if anything, has gone wrong, but we are satisfied that this is entirely beyond the control of TSSA and is not an issue with our data. 

Your Executive Committee have offered members in the Republic of Ireland a further opportunity to request a new ballot paper (by emailing membership@tssa.org.uk by 20 September). 

Your Executive Committee have agreed to extend the deadline for members in the Republic of Ireland (only) to return their ballot papers until 6 October. All campaigning in the election will cease after 22 September.

Therefore, it is now expected that we will announce the election results on the afternoon of 10 October. 

General Secretary Election Process

The process is underway to elect our union’s next General Secretary, it is up to you – our members – to decide who leads our union.

The way we elect our General Secretary has changed for this election, for the first time your Executive Committee has nominated a candidate and is recommending that members vote for Maryam Eslamdoust as the candidate best placed to implement the cultural change that TSSA needs and delver membership growth and industrial success.

Why it was necessary to change the election process

In February 2023 an independent inquiry into bullying and sexual harassment at TSSA - the Kennedy Report – was published. The report found that there had been sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within the TSSA and that the leadership and culture enabled these behaviours through wilful blindness, poor practices, and power hoarding.

Your Executive Committee accepted the findings of the report in full and committed to implementing all the recommendations in the report. It was clear from the report that the way that General Secretary was elected contributed to the serious cultural failings at TSSA.

As Kennedy made clear, the fact that only TSSA members could stand for election to General Secretary, the most powerful role in the union, meant that General Secretary elections were often uncontested, and this led to a situation of ‘opportunity hoarding’ which ‘does nothing to advance the reputation or quality of trade union leadership’.

It was clear to your Executive Committee that to find a candidate with the knowledge and experience to take the union forward after a time of crisis, it was necessary to open the process and accept nominations from candidates across our trade union movement.  

The new election process

The Executive Committee proposed a relevant Rule Book change that would widen up the pool of talent for our union’s next leader. The 2023 TSSA Annual Delegate Conference then voted to change the way that our General Secretary is elected after a process which allowed amendments and debate from branches to make the process as fair and transparent as possible. The new process is similar to that used successfully by the ATL and other unions.

As in previous elections, each TSSA Branch was invited to nominate a candidate for the post of General Secretary, but for the first time your democratically elected Executive Committee also had the right to nominate a candidate.

To appear on the ballot paper, candidates needed to be nominated by the Executive Committee or nominated by at least five Branches from at least two different Divisional Council areas.

On the date that nominations closed the candidates needed to have at least five years aggregated membership of TSSA and/or one or more unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress or the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Following the closing date for nominations, on 17 July, our elected Scrutineers reported that three candidates made the ballot paper: Maryam Eslamdoust, Duncan Bates and Bonnie Craven.

An election is therefore necessary, and there will be an individual vote of members conducted by independent scrutineers Civica and overseen by your elected Scrutineers. The ballots will be sent out on 25 August and must be returned by 22 September 2023.

What the EC nomination means

It was clear from the Kennedy and Conley reports that there have been ‘leadership and management failings’ within TSSA with the former General Secretary acting in a manner that was ‘all powerful and certainly is not subject to EC scrutiny in any meaningful way’.

To address this, your Executive Committee recognised that finding a candidate from across the trade union movement would guard against the situation in which ‘a key individual is seen to be ‘groomed’ for the post [of General Secretary] by the small number of senior managers… and that individual is then ‘crowned’.’

In order to encourage a diverse and talented pool of candidates, your Executive Committee advertised a vacancy for the EC nomination. TSSA members and staff were encouraged to apply for this position and the advert was circulated in national media and HR channels.

Many talented and experienced applications were received from across the trade union movement, and from within TSSA staff. These were considered by the Executive Committee who shortlisted candidates and interviewed them to determine that they had the expertise and abilities to take the necessary steps to rebuild our culture, reputation, organising and governance.

After a rigorous and robust shortlisting and interview process Maryam Eslamdoust received the Executive Committee nomination. This meant that Maryam would automatically appear on the ballot, but even without this nomination Maryam still received more than enough Branch nominations to appear on the ballot.

Your democratically elected Executive Committee are now asking you to have confidence in their decision and vote for Maryam.

Maryam Eslamdoust

The Executive Committee is very proud to nominate Maryam Eslamdoust for General Secretary and encourages all members to vote for Maryam.

Maryam is an exceptional trade union professional, with experience in equalities, policy, and organisational change. Maryam has dedicated her career to the trade union movement – from serving as a workplace health and safety rep, to combatting discrimination in recruitment, to fighting for justice for blacklisted workers at UCATT, to implementing major organisational change at the Labour Party.

Your Executive Committee urge all members to vote for Maryam for General Secretary. Maryam will use her background and experience in equalities and organisational change to implement the cultural change that we need following the Kennedy and Conley reports. If elected, Maryam will employ her knowledge of diversifying and retaining members to grow our union’s membership to its full potential.

General Secretary Candidates - in their own words

Hear from the three candidates in the General Secretary election

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