COVID-19 and the transport industry
The Executive Committee was updated on the fluid and, seemingly, worsening situation as the second wave of Covid-19 spreads across Britain and Ireland. The effects of Covid-19 on the rail industry are already known - passenger numbers are down around two thirds of normal levels, working from home has become the new normal for millions of people and a return to pre-Covid passenger levels seems unlikely for some time. Some rail industry employers have already begun to review their service and staffing levels and are making redundancies as a result. These include Merseyrail and Translink in Northern Ireland.
It was noted that Network Rail, whilst not openly making their staff redundant, were using reorganisations to remove vacant positions and this may proliferate as the crisis continues.
The General Secretary reported that discussions were ongoing with the Department for Transport to examine how the industry can continue through this ongoing crisis.
The Executive Committee agreed to take the difficult but necessary step of cancelling Annual Conference in Cork next year and instead commence work on organising an online Conference. This work includes setting up a working party, to includes members of the Executive Committee and the Standing Orders Committee, as well as consulting with other trade unions who have held online events, including the Communication Workers’ Union and the National Education Union on the methods that they have used in order to establish best practice.
The Executive Committee also considered the motions submitted to the agenda for the cancelled 2020 Annual Conference. The Committee agreed to take a position on all of the motions, being to support motions which the EC would have supported at a full Conference were it to take place, or to ‘note’ motions which it would have either opposed or would have recommended to remit/oppose. Branches will be contacted to set out the result of the Committee’s deliberations.
The Committee agreed to submit a motion for the TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference on public access, which had been forwarded by DWG. It was also agreed to submit a motion on slavery to the TUC Women’s Conference.
The union’s finances, much like those of the nation in general, have been seriously affected by Covid-19. Our investments portfolio has recovered somewhat since a substantial hit in April, however it sits some way down on where it was before the pandemic struck. The Investments Committee are keeping the situation under review.
Regarding rental income, some of our tenants have set up arrangements with our union to pay their rent on a monthly rather than a quarterly basis in order to spread the burden more evenly and help make budgeting a little more easier in these unpredictable times. Our rental income for 2020 is expected to be slightly down on budgeted levels at the year end.
The spending approach on the part of the union will need to continue to be cautious whilst the outlook run the short to medium term remains uncertain.
The Committee received a valuation report of the TSSA Staff Pension from the Management Committee Secretary. As with the union’s own investment portfolio, the pension fund took a substantial hit in April as the pandemic took hold across the UK, however it has subsequently recovered and is in good health. The Committee agreed to the valuation, as well as the assumptions on the valuation included in the report.
Unfortunately, the audited accounts have not yet been completed. Work is continuing to complete this report and it was targeted to have the report completed and put before the EC at the December meeting. However, initial feedback our auditors means that we remain optimistic that we will record a small surplus in 2019.
A full tendering process has taken place with regard to the introduction of a new TSSA website and the Executive Committee was asked to consider which of the two companies which had submitted tenders would be selected. The EC opted to select MTM, a company who has experience of building websites for trade unions in the past (including Nautilus’s website - see https://www.nautilusint.org) to build our new website.
It was decided that, in light of the decision of the EC to hold next year’s Conference online, it was imperative that the work on building the website starts as soon as possible. An application for a licence would be completed by the end of October and it was anticipated that work would be complete in the first quarter of 2021.
The Executive Committee considered a report from the Treasurer on the latest meeting of the People’s Press Printing Society Management Committee, who manage the Morning Star newspaper. Sales of the newspaper were considerably down on the same time last year, clearly there has been a slump in newspaper sales across the industry as people limited their trips out other houses and had opted to not take the trip to the local newsagent. Advertising was also down, but not by as much as had been feared. Members with an interest in the Morning Star are encouraged to take out an online subscription, details are here.
The Committee agreed to support Jessica Barnard for the position of Chair of Young Labour.
Any other business
The Executive Committee agreed to ratify the updated Standing Orders for North East General, and Anglia South General branches and the North West Divisional Council.