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1 November 2011

The Ex-President shares his views on working with the RMT

Cards on the table. I am fully in favour of a merger between the TSSA and the RMT and I’ll give some reasons.

However, before that, I want to express my concerns over why most TSSA members that I speak to have particular perceptions. These perceptions are roughly:

  • We are rushing into this without exploring all the options
  • The discussions with RMT are at an advanced stage
  • RMT would dominate us and the TSSA culture would be lost.

The reasons for these views are largely to do with poor communications with the wider membership and the lack of a two way process.

Many TSSA members will have reservations about such a merger and it is crucial that the leadership does not appear to be charging ahead regardless.

Individuals as well as branches should get as much information as possible but, more importantly, must be given the opportunity, and better, be encouraged, to ask questions, make suggestions and to discuss the issues. Unless there is a chance to have an input, or ‘to left off steam’ then when the final decisions need to be made many will remain suspicious and alienated.

One issue raised in my branch is over managers. If there had been, at an early stage, a request for views and some had said ‘What about managers?’ The published answer may have been ‘We will explore manager branches, maintaining representation and even manager conferences’. Joint statement 4 does go some way towards this and should win over many but are we confident we have picked up all the key reservations?

It is not too late. These are some of the obvious reasons for a merger with RMT:

  • Negotiations with one union per workplace/ company should save resources, avoid division, strengthen our impact, and make easier a two way communication with all members.
  • Campaigning on national issues such as pensions and the McNulty report would be easier to coordinate, save research and other resources and avoid division.
  • Despite the different style of RMT leadership they are on the same side as us when we are attacked by Government and employers – which is most of the time
  • Such a merger could retain many aspects of TSSA structures, culture and activities.

So TSSA leadership should focus on the key issue and have the courage to open this up to much wider debate.

Andy Bain

Network Rail North London Branch Chair

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