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Strengthening our hand through merger

25 June 2013

Last month in Glasgow our union held its 116th Annual Delegate Conference. This gathering may well turn out to be a historic one. It looks to have paved the way towards yet another very important milestone in our extremely long and proud history – a new beginning.

Delegates overwhelmingly passed a motion instructing me and our Executive Committee to pursue talks with Unite to form Britain and Ireland’s first ever cross-transport and travel union. If this aim is achieved, the new union will organise workers across the entire spectrum of the transport and travel industries – greatly strengthening our negotiating hand. I believe this would greatly increase our ability to deliver a far better deal for you!

Of course, as always, conference never gives a blank cheque – tough conditions will need to be met before a merger can become a reality. This means that before we embark on a new beginning, at very least, the following will need to be put in place:

  • There will be a new stand-alone rail sector within Unite. If the merger goes ahead, the vast majority of you will in future be part of this.
  • Those of you not working within the railways – or in Ireland where, fortunately, we still have multi-modal publicly owned public transport companies – will be transferred into the sector within Unite that provides you with the greatest bargaining strength. For example, our travel trade members will team up with Unite’s powerful aviation workers.
  • There will be a new specialist unit to ensure we deliver membership growth, enhanced organisation and build wider community alliances to better defend and improve your jobs, pay and conditions. This will have its own dedicated resources, funded from our existing assets for an agreed period of time.

Democratic structures:

  • TSSA branches will transfer into Unite’s regional structure and will be maintained for a minimum of two years – or for a shorter period through mutual agreement – during which time consultation on their reconstitution will take place.
  • Every effort will be made to ensure that our Self Organised Groups are given adequate representation. They will either transfer to the appropriate structures within Unite or as a new stand-alone group with a view to being expanded to include eligible members from within Unite’s existing membership.
  • TSSA members will be allocated reserved seats across industrial, national, regional and equality structures of Unite for an agreed period of time. l There will be a rail sector conference, with its frequency and other details to be jointly determined.
  • You will continue to enjoy a Helpdesk facility.

I have no doubt that in-depth negotiations will follow over the next few months – indeed they are already getting under-way. You know, as I told conference, goodwill is not sufficient to seal a deal, but without it, I can guarantee that no agreement would ever be possible. Thankfully there is plenty of it around.

Of course, it is vitally important that we keep you fully informed of progress as it is being made.This is something that will most definitely happen, although I am seeking your forbearance as some issues may take a while before they are resolved to our satisfaction.

If negotiations go well and deliver significant progress, then in the near future myself and the general secretary of Unite will hold a Q&A session. This event will be attended by senior workplace representatives and an invite will also be extended to each of our branches so that they too can send members along to receive answers to any questions you may have. This session will happen well before you get a vote to determine whether a merger should go ahead – you will always have the final say!

However, it is vitally important that we don’t get distracted by the possibility of a merger, essential as this is for our union’s future. We all need to remain focused on the day-to-day issues that affect you and your colleagues – particularly during the tough economic times that we are sadly living through. That is why our reps, activists and staff will continue working extremely hard to protect your interests and to deliver the best possible deal for you!

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