Back in 1897, in Sheffield, in a hotel not too far from here a group of railway workers got together and decided to form a union. A union to stand for the rights of working people on the railways. The Railways clerks association was born.
And 125 years later the Tssa meets to celebrate the 125th anniversary of that event. 125 years of standing for working people, not only across the railways but also the travel trade, buses and London transport too. We must never forget the debt we owe our forebears 125 years ago. On Monday we will celebrate their legacy and our history and I want to pay tribute to Steve Coe for putting this together. And not only Steve but Gemma, Melissa and Nicola too. I can’t believe how quick it’s come around.
But times have not always been easy, it’s fair to say. And the times we face now are some of our toughest. The General Secretary laid this out clearly to those of you that were here yesterday. A mounting deficit, barely enough staff to function, and I pay tribute to the staff that we have some spinning 2 or 3 plates at once and now, thanks to the decision of the SDC at least another year of inertia. You may not like it but that’s the reality, we are unsustainable and sometimes you have to allow your leaders to do exactly that. Lead.
We are looking at the real possibility of National strikes across the rail industry. We have already served notice on Network Rail, many of the TOCs are likely to follow. Speak to your Network Rail Comrades in this room. They will tell you thousands of jobs are going. Speak to Dave Barnes. Speak to Gary Kilroy. And yet we have an online rail forum, speaking for the bosses and close to government, telling you they expect the number of jobs in the railway to remain the same. Well I know who I believe and it’s our people facing the reality, not some stooge giving promises of what might come. I’m a ticket clerk, a proud ticket clerk. Possibly the only President of this union to come from non management grades (I'll check that with Wally, if anyone will know it’s him) but I don’t know if I’ll be here this time next year. That is the reality of what we are facing. The time for naval gazing has long gone.
Outside of conference and the TSSA there have been some fairly important local elections. It gives us a watermark of where we are now. There remains only one party that can defeat the Tories and like it or not that is our Labour Party. You may not feel they are left enough, you may not feel they are left at all but you can attach yourself to all the fringe marginal parties you want, they are never going to win a seat, never mind an election. And how we need a change of direction. We have spent 2 years in crisis, the worst leader at the worst time. And we are not out of it yet. They partied, we died and now we pay the price.
The worst cost of living crisis in generations, that’s the reality of Tory Britain
The longest NHS waiting lists in its history, that’s the reality of Tory Britain
Old ladies travelling on buses to stay warm and the cold callous prime minister saying proudly that without him introducing a 24 hour bus pass they couldn’t do that, utterly missing the point that they shouldn’t have to. That’s the reality of living in Tory Britain.
Delegates, enjoy conference