An opportunity is presenting itself for a stronger trade union movement in the transport industry to become a reality.
Rumours have been spreading for sometime now of a possible merger between the National Union for Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA).
The official line from the unions’ leaderships is that the TSSA voted at their Annual General Meeting to “look at merging with another union” although the RMT was not specifically mentioned.
As a consequence of their AGM’s decision, the TSSA has formally approached RMT, ASLEF, Nautilus International (ships officers’ union) and URTU (United Road Transport Union dedicated to HGV / LGV lorry and truck drivers) to discuss working more closely and a possible merger.
Chances for a TSSA merger are best (and probably a certainty) with RMT, possible with URTU, faint with Nautilus International and virtually non-existent with ASLEF whose elitism would not allow non-driver grades into their union.
The possibility of a merger with the TSSA was mentioned at the recent RMT Annual General Meeting at Fort William in Scotland. It seemed that the RMT leadership knew more than they were letting on to the delegates attending the AGM.
This merger is a positive step forward towards a stronger union in the workplace. RMT currently has around 80,000 members and TSSA has around 30,000. If we could one day also encourage ASLEF to join us in solidarity and in creating a single union in the workplace we could virtually write our own terms and conditions to management.
We need a stronger union to defend ourselves locally from Boris Johnson and the fatcats as well as a strong national strategy to defend our comrades in the private transport industry.
The McNulty reports states that rail workers are “overpaid” by 15%. It is an indication that the bosses and the government want to attack our pay, pensions, terms and conditions to feather their own nests and look after the shareholders.
The RMT AGM heard from International guests about how striking is illegal in their own countries. It is illegal to strike in New York except once every three years when staff contracts are up for renewal. Even then a one day strike results in the loss of three days pay.
Boris Johnson is determined to make tube strikes illegal under the guise of providing essential services. Once he has done this the unions will be powerless to fight for workers’ rights and management will do what they want.
If we are so essential then let the management treat us as such. Let them start treating staff fairly and stop the discrimination of union representatives.
Let’s all get ready for the day we have a single union and the bosses will have no other option but to take us seriously.
However, as well as welcoming the prospects of merger, we also need to try to shape *how* it will be done.
When unions merge, their leaders have a nasty habit of prioritising the preservation of their privileges and positions in the new, merged union. Some mergers have seen the most bureaucratic aspects of each union brought forward into the new union, with the more democratic parts conveniently dropped.
Instead of this, we need to fight for our new, merged union to be as democratic as possible, with the maximum rank-and-file power and the best feature of each union brought forward into the new union, and obsolete, bureaucratic structures left behind.
And we need our unions to be less secretive and more honest about this merger process. Members are already getting the distinct impression of the merger being cooked up behind closed doors, which does not bode well. We want up-to-date and detailed information on how it is progressing to members of all unions involved, including details of how we can have our say.
Finally, we should also remember that the point of merger (for the rank-and-file, anyway) is to make us more united and effective against the bosses. So let's building that fighting unity in the workplaces now - starting with our fight for a better pay deal and our ongoing battles against job cuts.