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General Secretary's editorial: The challenges we will face together

12 December 2011

A welcome, pledges and priorities of new General Secretary Manuel Cortes

I am deeply honoured and feel immensely proud to have been elected your new General Secretary. I pledge that during my term of office our union will:

  • Listen to you and act on your priorities
  • Give you a strong voice in your workplace, the media and politically
  • Fight the McNulty proposals and attacks on your jobs and conditions
  • Work tirelessly to ensure you enjoy dignity in retirement
  • Prioritise efforts to bring the British railways back into public ownership
  • Deliver a distinctive voice for our members working in the travel trade and in Ireland
  • Fully embrace the diversity of our union and your workplaces
  • Invest in training for our excellent Reps
  • Continue to grow into the campaigning organisation that you need;
  • Further develop our community organising work, building the alliances we need to defend members
  • Stabilise the union's finances
  • Campaign with you to secure the return in Britain of a Labour Government.

Over the next few years, we face huge challenges. In the UK, a faltering economy and a Government committed to massive cuts will put many of your livelihoods at risk. In the Republic of Ireland, the economy remains in the doldrums. If you work in the UK rail industry, the proposals contained in the McNulty report will lead to thousands of job losses and will attack hard fought and won terms and conditions. Public expenditure cuts are also having a very adverse effect on many of our members. Those of you who work within TfL, LUL, BTP or Ireland will easily testify to this. The reality is that as long as our High Streets remain depressed, those of you within the travel industry will also continue to feel the pinch.

Jobs losses are significantly denting our membership income. This means that our finances – like those of many other unions – have been very stretched since the 2008 recession. In addition, a depressed rental market means that we no longer get as much as we once did from leasing parts of Walkden House. Our investment income – and capital wealth – has severely suffered as stock markets across the globe have collapsed. We are fortunate that we still have a relatively strong financial base even though cash flow remains a concern. However, it has become clear that in the medium-term, we can no longer remain as we are. It is vital that we take early action, well before, our assets have been exhausted.

Our vision is to help create a new strong specialised transport and travel union to replace those that already exist within these industries. Our talks with RMT are the potential first step towards achieving this. There is strong industrial and financial logic behind this move. However, if it is going to work, we need to create a brand new union that builds on the best of both traditions. It cannot be either a 'TSSA Mark 2' or a 'RMT Mark 2'. It will need to provide a fresh start and a strong voice for you or it will not happen.

Finally, can I end my first piece as your General Secretary by thanking you for the support that you have given me over the past seven years. I know that I can count on it going forward for the next five. I very much look forward to working with you over this period. May I also take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2012.

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