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TUC Congress – for jobs, growth and fair pay

1 November 2013

This year’s TUC Congress, held in Bournemouth, was a successful one for TSSA. Each member of our delegation of Mick Carney, Fliss Premru, Steve Leggett, Jenny Anderson and Manuel Cortes all spoke on the main floor of Congress, with TSSA also hosting a successful fringe meeting on our neurodiversity work, during which many members and reps spoke.

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TSSA delegate Steve Leggett told the Journal, “I really enjoyed my first TUC and was very proud to represent my union. I made two speeches, one on fair pay and wages and the other on disability rights. Of course I was very nervous, but I am glad to say that they went well with no major hiccups. I would encourage everyone to consider putting themselves forward – you will benefit from the experience and greatly enjoy the camaraderie of the atmosphere.”

Overwhelming support for public ownership

Public ownership of our railways was a recurring theme at Congress, including when Frances O’Grady used her first keynote speech as general secretary of the TUC to say, “We want our railways returned to public ownership. Let’s send a strong message from this Congress – we will fight this latest, senseless, sell-off of the family silver. Hands off our Royal Mail.”

Congress voted to support a motion proposed by TSSA and backed by ASLEF and RMT which committed to continued TUC campaigning for public ownership. The motion also highlighted the threat posted by the EU’s ‘fourth railway package’. This legislation, if unamended, would spread the mistakes of UK-style privatisation across Europe and make it irreversible here (see page 9 for more).

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Labour getting the message

Speaking at the Action for Rail fringe meeting, then shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle put it bluntly, “I think it’s been quite clear rail privatisation has been a disaster. There is a reason no other country in the world decided to do to their railways what we did to ours”.

Discussing what could happen as franchises expire during the next parliament, she added, “You don’t have to pay lots of compensation – you just don’t refranchise it. That will clearly be an option. I’ve got to persuade one or two people in the Labour Party – I’ve persuaded a lot – but one or two more, that this is the way to go”. We’ll be working to ensure Mary Creagh, Labour’s new shadow transport secretary is as convinced as Maria was of the case for public ownership.

When Ed Miliband was asked about rail ownership by TSSA’s Jenny Anderson during a Q&A session, the Labour leader limited his remarks to East Coast, saying, “The reality about the East Coast is that it’s been successful in public ownership. We’re not going to be hidebound by the dogma of the past which says that private is always good and public is always bad.”

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TUC backs our right to take action

TSSA worked with the RMT on an emergency motion opposing the London Conservatives’ attempts to frustrate or fully ban workers from taking industrial action on the tube. Tory members of the London Assembly have again been pushing for there to be minimum turnout requirements on industrial action ballots far higher than the public turnout which elected them into their positions.

Congress voted to voice the concern that the move would ‘reinforce the Mayor’s anti-union agenda, the effect of which has been characterised by a refusal to meet the trade unions to discuss industrial concerns’.

TSSA election success

Manuel Cortes topped the poll in his successful bit to be elected to the TUC's General Council. There was stiff competition, with 11 candidates chasing seven places in our section for unions with under 100,000 members. In a vote of confidence from fellow unions, Manuel came top with 208,800 votes.

It was also announced that a fellow transport worker, Mohammad Taj, has been elected as the TUC’s first Muslim or Asian president. A bus driver with FirstGroup in Bradford, he first become a T&G shop steward in 1982, eventually rising to sit on Unite’s executive and has served on the TUC’s General Council since 2001.

Neurodiversity work highlighted

TSSA’s groundbreaking neurodiversity project was the subject of a TUC fringe meeting, held with the support of Morrish solicitors. The meeting, chaired by the TUC’s policy officer for disabilities, Peter Purton, heard about the ground-breaking research by Heriot-Watt University, assisted by TSSA, on the impact of hidden disabilities in the workplace.

Neurodiversity champions Mary Sithole, Steve Cambridge, Peter Worrall and Taffy Evans spoke about their work out on the ground, supporting screening of colleagues who have conditions like dyslexia, Asperger’s or ADHD. TSSA organiser Ricky Jones offered his personal experience of the difference simple modifications made to his ability to work, whilst TSSA Neurodiversity Project workers Susannah Gill and Sarah Hughes described the programme which was being rolled out nationally. Paul Scholey of Morrish solicitors commended the 'inspirational' project and underlined just how important such work was in enabling all workers to reach their potential.

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