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Presidential welcome

25 June 2013

TSSA’s newly elected president, Mick Carney, looks forward to the challenges ahead

Thank you for electing me as your new president. I’m a career railway man, having started out on the Youth Training Scheme (introduced the last time the Tories needed to massage the dole figures) in 1983 straight from school in my native North East England. After the scheme, the only chance of getting work was to transfer ‘down South’, so just after I turned 17 I took up a position as a carriage cleaner at East Ham sheds. I stayed there for a year then transferred back to York to work in despatch at what was then British Rail’s main headquarters outside of London. Whenever I pass by what is now a very exclusive hotel not far from York station, I’m always filled with sadness, remembering that once proud railway office. In early 1988, under threat of redundancy, I transferred to Waterloo TEB and via a couple of other ticket office jobs, I ended up at Penge East in South London, where I have now been for over 20 years.

I take on this role at a time of great uncertainty for many of us: in the industries where we work, on a national level due to the heinous attacks of this government and indeed a time of change within our union itself.

In the industries we organise in, things seem to change on a daily basis. The travel trade continues to contract as more and more bookings are made online. This is all well and good, but means many people no longer have access to the expertise that our members can bring. I for one would rather phone through and know who I am speaking to, or better still, visit my local travel store and have a friendly, well- trained staff member make my booking for me.

In the railways, we work in a privatised industry and have to survive in a time of constant change. Last year’s West Coast debacle has thrown the discredited franchising system right up in the air. No one in government seems to know what they are doing – they are just sure they need to do it before the next election.

It’s now been over two years since the publication of the McNulty Report. Up to now, we have managed to stave off the worst excesses of the report, thanks in no small part due to the pressure built through our community organising strategy and the alliances we have built. I personally wish to thank DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts – a more courageous group of campaigners you could not hope to meet, and thanks to you, our hard working reps and members. But we must remain vigilant. This government is still after 'value for money' whatever the cost to the quality of services. This will come at the expense of our members, whilst allowing greedy privateers to continue with their inflation-busting price rises and skim profit from the top. All except in East Coast. Now that's an oddity. Taken back under public control a couple of years back, services have improved and record profits have been paid back into the public purse. And the answer to this success story for public ownership? Privatise it again. It is time to scrap the whole failed privatisation experiment and follow the East Coast example and renationalise the railways.

As Manuel has said before in the Journal, we are currently in discussions with Unite regarding a possible merger. I sit on the team in the discussions and can pledge it will only happen if it is the right move for the TSSA and the right move for our members.

And lastly I want to thank my branch, Southeastern Metro, for their unwavering support and friendship they have shown me over the years. I am a firm believer in the branch structure being the way forward for our internal democracy, but a democracy is only as strong as the people willing to participate. Whilst we may need to move away from traditional branch meetings and be prepared to look at other ways of doing things, I do encourage you all to engage within the democratic structures of our union.

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