The process is underway to elect our union’s next General Secretary, and it is up to you – our members – to decide who leads our union.
The way we elect our General Secretary has changed for this election, with your Executive Committee (EC) nominating a candidate for the first time. The EC recommends that members vote for Maryam Eslamdoust - see why below.
Why has the election process changed?
In February 2023 an independent inquiry into bullying and sexual harassment at TSSA - the Kennedy Report – was published. It found reports of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within the TSSA, enabled by the leadership and culture.
One finding was that the process for electing a General Secretary was contributing to the serious cultural failings at TSSA, by only allowing our members to stand. This meant that elections for the most powerful role in the Union were often uncontested, and led to 'opportunity hoarding.'
Your EC, in its commitment to implement all the recommendations in the report and to improve the quality of trade union leadership, opened the process. It encouraged applications from candidates across our trade union movement, in a bid to elect the individual with the knowledge and experience to take the union forward.
What is the new election process?
The Executive Committee proposed a Rule Book change to widen up the pool of talent for our union’s next leader. The 2023 TSSA Annual Delegate Conference then voted to change the election process. The new process is fair and transparent and follows a similar approach to that used by the ATL and other unions.
As in previous elections, each TSSA Branch was invited to nominate a candidate, but for the first time your democratically elected Executive Committee also had the right to nominate a candidate.
To appear on the ballot paper, candidates needed to be nominated by the Executive Committee, or by at least five Branches from at least two different Divisional Council areas.
On the date that nominations closed the candidates needed to have at least five years' aggregated membership of TSSA and/or one or more unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress or the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Following the closing date for nominations, on 17 July, our elected scrutineers reported that three candidates made the ballot paper: Maryam Eslamdoust, Duncan Bates and Bonnie Craven.
An election is therefore necessary, and there will be an individual vote of members conducted by independent scrutineers Civica and overseen by your elected scrutineers. The ballots were sent out on 25 August and must be returned by 22 September 2023.
What does the EC nomination mean?
The Kennedy and Conley reports found that the former General Secretary acted in a manner that was 'all powerful and certainly is not subject to EC scrutiny in any meaningful way'. To address this, your EC recognised that a candidate from across the movement would prevent ‘a key individual [being] seen to be ‘groomed’ for the post [of General Secretary] by the small number of senior managers… and that individual is then ‘crowned’.’
In order to encourage a diverse and talented pool of candidates, your Executive Committee advertised a vacancy for the EC nomination. TSSA members and staff were encouraged to apply for this position and the advert was circulated in national media and HR channels, receiving a number of strong applications from across the trade union movement, and from within TSSA.
After a rigorous and robust shortlisting and interview process, Maryam Eslamdoust was nominated by your EC as having the expertise required to rebuild our culture, reputation, organising and governance. This meant that Maryam would automatically appear on the ballot, but even so Maryam still received more than enough Branch nominations to appear on the ballot.
Your democratically elected Executive Committee are now asking you to have confidence in their decision and encourages all members to vote for Maryam.
Who is EC nominee Maryam Eslamdoust?
Maryam is an exceptional trade union professional, with experience in equalities, policy, and organisational change. Maryam has dedicated her career to the trade union movement – from serving as a workplace health and safety rep, to combatting discrimination in recruitment, to fighting for justice for blacklisted workers at UCATT, to implementing major organisational change at the Labour Party.
Your Executive Committee urge all members to vote for Maryam for General Secretary. Maryam will use her background and experience in equalities and organisational change to implement the cultural change that we need following the Kennedy and Conley reports. If elected, Maryam will employ her knowledge of diversifying and retaining members to grow our union’s membership to its full potential.