Category: Campaigns

Emily Young

Membership growth in HS2

HS2 construction workers wearing orange overalls and hard hats at bridge construction.

HS2 has experienced significant member growth this year, with a 10per cent increase in the four weeks. HS2 activist and Young Delegate to Annual Conference 2023, Emily Young, tells us how they did it.

TSSA have only had a recognition agreement in HS2 since 2019. 

For the first two years, the TSSA was not allowed to negotiate on pay, so the first negotiated pay settlement was concluded last year. The circumstances off the back of a global pandemic were not hopeful, and members were not expecting a significant pay rise in 2022. But the reps and members took it on good faith that the company had agreed to work with the union to comprehensively review the entire Pay Policy. 

However, when it came round to early 2023 when the next round of pay talks were due to commence, there had been no meaningful change. Reps and members alike felt let down and angry at this betrayal of trust, and it was clear that the company didn’t take the union seriously as a force to be reckoned with.

In 2023 the negotiating team was bolstered to enhance the perspectives and talents of the negotiators. As in the previous year, the team was under pressure to deliver a pay deal for the All Staff Event in early June, but the reps made it clear that we wouldn’t be pressured into advising our members to accept a bad deal just because the leadership wanted to announce a good news story at the All Staff Event. We made sure to check in with our members every week to ensure we had a mandate to take this strong stance, and they agreed. This active engagement helped our members feel empowered and encouraged them to stay engaged throughout the process. Through multiple rounds of pay negotiations we achieved some good concessions, and our ultimate deal was accepted by 87% of the members. However, there were outstanding elements of our initial pay claim which were rejected by the company.

It was important at this stage to not dishearten members – we made it clear that the positive elements of the pay offer would not have been achieved without their membership of the union. However, we explained that in order to add more pressure to the company in subsequent years we would need to increase the size and presence of the union.

A couple of reps had a stall at the All Staff Event at the ICC in Birmingham in June, and our visibility was really useful for encouraging staff to come over to talk to us and ask questions about joining. It was clear that there are a lot of misconceptions about trade unions out in the general public; especially in younger members of the population. Some people even thought that it was against the rules or even against the law to talk about the union with their colleagues. We took this useful insight away, and from then on have been encouraging members in weekly members calls talk to their colleagues about joining up. After all, we only have so many reps across the company, and we often work in siloes across the different teams in the business. As such, our existing members are our best assets for growing the membership further.

At members calls it is so important to make the members feel listened to and empowered. We always brief them on all the work and campaigning we are doing, and make sure to give them time for questions. We’ve brought on another three reps since the conclusion of the pay talks too, as they were interested and excited to be part of the growing TSSA presence at HS2 Ltd.

We are continuing to plan and organise our actions and areas of campaign in the coming year, and keeping these comms clear and focussed for our members, so they know that we are fighting for them, and they in turn can spread this message to their colleagues to continue to grow the membership.  

Another thing we noticed from casework was that members don’t always know who to turn to to talk about specific issues. As such, the new team of reps have agreed to specialise into their areas of focus, and we have communicated this to members. We now have Health & Safety, Equality, Casework, Pay, Member engagement, Comms, Learning and Pensions specialities, with dedicated reps in each area. This way we add confidence in our membership that we are an professional, knowledgeable and dedicated organisation committed to supporting them.

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