Author Archives: gmbnorthwestlondon

Petition to call on Manuel Cortes to end the Dispute at TSSA‏

You can sign our petition here

It’s sad when the staff working for a trade union need a trade union themselves. But that’s exactly what’s happened at the TSSA union, where employees represented by the union GMB have found themselves in a long and bitter struggle with the TSSA management.

Not only has this had a huge effect on GMB members working at TSSA, but is seriously damaging TSSA’s ability to do its job of representing workers in transport and travel.

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, could end the dispute by coming to an agreement with his staff and their union.

But for that to happen, Cortes needs to drop his attack on staff, by ending his plan to force staff to reapply for their own jobs.

Please help us bring an end to this sorry story by joining with TSSA staff and calling on Manuel Cortes to be fair to his own employees and start rebuilding the TSSA!

Background:

Financial difficulties at the TSSA resulted in radical management plans last November to slim down the staffing numbers to cut costs. GMB members working at TSSA sacrificed pay awards and absorbed increasing workloads as colleagues left the organisation under severance arrangements. Finally, this summer, staff were told that the finances were now stable.

But then, Manuel Cortes dropped a bombshell: staff would have to go through assessments – for their own jobs.

GMB members working at TSSA have taken strike action over the dispute, on 8 October, and are now engaged in talks at Acas to try and resolve the disagreements. But the negotiations are painfully slow and the continuing delays threaten to do irreparable damage to TSSA.

TSSA membership has dropped by over 1,100 since the re-organisation started, and currently hundreds are deserting each month. Staff morale is understandably at rock bottom and sickness levels are rocketing.

It is time for the General Secretary to do the right thing and unite his staff to start rebuilding the union, for the good of those working at TSSA, the members of TSSA and for the Trade Union movement as a whole.

Manuel, let your staff have their jobs back. Come to an agreement with the GMB.

Sign our petition here

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TSSA Management Must Come to Their Senses to End the Crisis in TSSA

In the past 12 months, just about as long as the management reorganisation has been on-going, TSSA membership has gone down by 1,137 members.  In the past two periods TSSA has haemorrhaged more than 500 members These losses were incurred before the strike and prior to management’s ill-advised communications to members attacking GMB, and with it TSSA staff.  Management say the financial situation is stable, but the question is for how long? No union, particularly a comparatively small one, can sustain these type of losses. GMB, and TSSA staff, want an amicable solution as soon as possible so that the TSSA can start recovering from this damaging year.

Management have claimed GMB was holding TSSA to ransom.  This was never the case.  TSSA management have never told their activists or members that in June there was an event for TSSA staff held at Stoke Rochford which was supported by GMB, designed to boost flagging morale amongst the staff, whilst relaunching an organising approach. At the event GMB shared our experience of moving to an organising culture. Both TSSA management and GMB agreed that it was essential TSSA started growing to ensure the union stayed in control of its own destiny and wasn’t subject to a hostile takeover. But any goodwill or enthusiasm generated from the Stoke Rochford event has been squandered by management, who went back on their promises to transition with a “minimum of fuss” and who are now trying to force staff to apply for their own jobs.

However, the goodwill GMB has to a sister union remains.  We want nothing but the best for TSSA and its members.  After all GMB in TSSA is actually the union employees who are hardworking, dedicated professionals, committed to TSSA and the wider trade union movement. There is no artificial distinction between TSSA staff and GMB as management have tried to suggest.

It is because of our collective desire to see TSSA thrive that we call on TSSA management to come to their senses before it is too late. They need to get round the table and find a solution that starts to heal relations between TSSA staff and management. For all the recent bluff, bluster and attempts at bullying from management what they haven’t explained is how they are going to turn TSSA around when the officers and staff are so utterly alienated. GMB will once again meet TSSA management in good faith at ACAS but the onus is now on the management side to come up with a sensible compromise position that will be acceptable to all parties.

GMB Dispute at TSSA: First Day of ACAS Talks Unproductive

On Monday (27 October) the GMB representatives of TSSA staff met the General Secretary and President of TSSA at ACAS for conciliation talks. GMB was there in a positive attempt to resolve the dispute over placing staff in a new organisation structure. Sadly, it did not seem that TSSA Management were there for the same reason.

Since the solid strike on 8 October, and the resulting agreement from TSSA Management to go to ACAS, GMB members at TSSA felt it was right to allow the dust to settle and Management to consider their position and the damage their refusal to move was doing to the union as a whole, with TSSA membership tumbling over the past few months.

Sadly Management have not behaved with the same decency, with a campaign of intimidation of GMB members working at TSSA being stepped up since the strike.

Despite this, GMB reps approached the ACAS talks positively and the talks lasted all day. A compromise position was tabled by the GMB side. It was rejected by management on the basis that it did not allow them to “assess” current staff for jobs in the new organisation despite dealing with their supposed concerns about training and development. Over six hours of talks TSSA Management did not put forward a single proposal to attempt to resolve the dispute. We were left with the impression that the GS and the President were unclear about what they were actually seeking from the ACAS process.

One thing the Management side were clear on was that they want the right to put individuals through assessments and judge whether current staff are “good enough” to carry out the jobs they already do. This is not acceptable to the GMB.  TSSA Management absolutely failed to deal with legitimate concerns from GMB about our members being victimised by management and scapegoated for the failings of the union leadership. It is perfectly clear that a re-organisation that started nearly a year ago with the explicit aim of reducing the staffing budget, has now become an exercise in retribution against a collectively strong staff, despite the financial aims of the re-organisation having been met.

After a very unproductive day GMB reps were surprised when ACAS advised us that TSSA Management believed there had been some progress and wanted further talks! We remain open to a negotiated solution and further dates are being explored, but the peace that TSSA Management have enjoyed since the strike, as we waited to see if they would come to their senses, is over.

TSSA Management Seek to Drag Union’s Lay Reps into War with Staff

Today Manuel Cortes, TSSA’s General Secretary, has sought to involve the lay representatives and of TSSA in his management team’s war against their own staff. He has sent out an email direct to them putting his position as an employer engaged in a dispute with the union recognised to represent the majority of staff – GMB. This is a gross abuse of his power, as the staff have been given instructions not to discuss this communication with any TSSA member. Manuel wishes to be able to be able to address the whole union with his point of view but not to give the opposing view the right of reply.

What are the headlines?

Over 30 staff are now displaced and have been told they will have to apply for their own jobs. This includes all the organisers and all the support staff.

This re-organisation has now been going on for nearly 11 months, with this being the third set of strike action announced. The last was called simply because the General Secretary had started to refuse to talk to the staff’s union!

The ballot result earlier in the year was a 91% yes vote on a 92% turnout. The unions have a 98% density among the staff. The last staff meeting unanimously voted to strike if commitments about jobs were not met. The staff are strong and they are united.

Shockingly, some of the language of the General Secretary’s message is profoundly anti-union. This is a trade union leader calling industrial action “blackmail”? Does he not think that this will now be thrown in the faces of TSSA reps and organisers by every employer when the TSSA calls industrial action? What impact is his unnecessary war having on the TSSA’s ability to defend its members?

What are the details?

Thankfully it is not as easy as the General Secretary would like to gag his staff. Here is the full reality:

Does the TSSA Executive Committee share the management of the union? The GS’s communication implies that they are on his side in this dispute?

It is probably best you ask EC members whether they support the GS’s actions. What is certain is that the staff and EC members have been regularly told that management of the staff is solely the responsibility of the General Secretary, particularly when questions have been asked about what is going on!

It would seem that Manuel Cortes would like very much to use the EC as a fig leaf when he is asked to answer for his actions as GS, but certainly does not want to involve them fully in decisions on a re-organisation that has had far-reaching effects on the operation and reputation of the TSSA.

Are the GMB targeting a Network Rail event with industrial action?

No. The GMB’s hand was forced when it was realised on Thursday 9 October the GS leaves the country for a week long solidarity visit to Greece. It is the staff’s firm view that Manuel should be held responsible for the decisions he has made and that strike action should take place when he is in the country! Sadly he has a history of being away during major management events – he chose to be on holiday when the announcement was made last November of the re-organisation that was to cut the helpdesk, despatch, education and finance departments. The same re-org we are still discussing to this day.

Have the GMB broken an agreement?

The GS’s communication does go on at length about the “Co-ordination Agreement”. This is a standard procedural agreement that GMB reps at TSSA did renegotiate earlier in the year. However, the GS seems to believe that if a union agrees to a procedure it can never seek additional protection for its members! If the TSSA staff practiced what Manuel is preaching when organising our members it would be the height of negligence!

Does all this matter if no-one’s livelihood is at risk?

Sadly it does. While the staff are obviously pleased to have the safety net of a no compulsory redundancy agreement they are concerned that assessments are designed to target staff whose “faces don’t fit”, isolate and bully them until they feel they have to leave. Staff at TSSA would not accept that if it was TSSA members and don’t accept it for themselves.

The staff are being threatened with being out of substantive roles and put on “development plans” if they are judged not to have the “skills and knowledge” to carry out roles in the new organisation.

None of the roles in question are specialist. They are the generic organiser roles that you see being carried out every day and the support staff who look after membership and finance. None of these roles are changing. We still need the same skills and knowledge to support our members tomorrow as we do today! And most tellingly, the new job descriptions are cut and pasted from the current job descriptions!

The most recent staff meeting returned a unanimous vote to support the position that all staff should be placed in substantive roles and that no one would be left behind to be put through assessments and development plans and be singled out.

This is a position to be proud of. A position that real trade unionists would recognise.

Why aren’t we going to ACAS?

Because the management are not offering conciliation talks to solve the issues in dispute! They want us to just to hand paperwork over to an unnamed person at ACAS who will apparently then decide if staff are fit to be placed in their own jobs! It is not up to ACAS to put officers and staff into jobs. This suggestion has been rejected four times and the reasons why explained directly to Manuel Cortes, yet he keeps wheeling out the same offer. Presumably so he can continue to pretend he is open to a solution.

What will solve the dispute and call off the strike?

A commitment to place everyone in a substantive role and that there will be no assessments.

The GMB do not believe these demands are outlandish, or that they are “blackmail” as the General Secretary calls them. They are the legitimate demands of a trade union supporting its members.

Conceding this would not cost the TSSA any money, and in fact would save a significant amount of staff resources that would be taken up in wasteful assessments.

The union would be more able to move forward straight away – with every member of staff having clarity about their role and to be able to contribute fully. We cannot afford to have staff engaged in work which is not meaningful for TSSA members.

Why then are TSSA Management so intent on not giving all their staff secure jobs?

The staff are those who have contact with the reps and members every day – they work alongside each other, support each other through disputes and difficult personal cases. They develop relationships of trust and the desire to see the union succeed is not for their own personal gain, but because it is important to have a strong TSSA to organise and protect those members and potential members. The decision to go on strike was not an easy one – union members know that it never is – but there is no choice.

Please send messages of support, or direct any queries to the staff’s GMB Branch who can be contacted on gmbnorthwestlondon@gmail.com or on twitter @GMBX59

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Everyone is also welcome to visit the picket line at TSSA Head Office, Walkden House, 10 Melton Street, London NW1 2EJ from 08.00 on Wednesday 8 October

GMB Members at TSSA: Strike Called as Staff Forced to Apply for own Jobs!

Management at the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) have written to all Organisers indicating they do not have a role assured in their new organisation and they will have to apply for their own jobs.

The Organisers join the union’s Support staff in being unsure of their future in the TSSA. This means over 30 staff in an organisation of barely 50 are being told they may not be good enough to work for the union and have to go through an assessment process!

This is an injustice that TSSA Organisers fight every day, with cut throat employers seeking to pick and choose favourites and carry out personal vendettas under the guise of re-organisations. TSSA Management started this restructure nearly eleven months ago, explicitly saying it was solely to cut staffing costs and not to change the way the union worked. After losing many valued and long-standing colleagues to voluntary severance and keeping the union running in the face of erratic staffing levels and non-existent management and direction, the staff are now being told they may not be fit to take the union forward.

There are enough jobs for everyone and the staff’s demands are simple – place us in secure and meaningful jobs and withdraw the threat of assessments. The General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has refused outright to consider this.

The GMB are in dispute over this threat to members working at TSSA and have called strike action.

It is the third time GMB have had to call strike action in this seemingly endless re-organisation. TSSA members deserve better than to have their union continue to be in chaos.

The strike will take place on Wednesday 8 October from 07:00 to 23:59. The main picket line will be in operation outside TSSA’s Head Office, Walkden House, 10 Melton Street, London NW1 2EJ (near Euston Station) from 8am.

Please send queries and messages of support to gmbnorthwestlondon@gmail.com

GMB Members at TSSA: Striking against Outsourcing and for Jobs!

Why are we on strike on 26 March?

Last November, shortly after the collapse of merger talks with Unite, TSSA Management announced a radical re-organisation of the staff structure of the union which proposed to cut jobs by over 35%!

These proposals involved the outsourcing of our member’s helpdesk, the bulk of our finance department, despatch (post and print department) and our reps’ education programme.  These massive job cuts fell almost entirely in the administrative grades, leaving senior management virtually untouched. GMB members were outraged by these proposals and that those responsible for the complete failure to control the costs of the organisation over several years were protecting themselves, while admin and frontline organising staff were being cut!

In January the GMB conducted a ballot for industrial action which resulted in an overwhelming mandate for strike action – a 92% yes vote on a 91% turnout.

Yet since that result TSSA Management have spent no time at all in consultation with staff reps about the concerns that led to our members sending such a clear message!

As a result of the ballot an agreement was made to allow GMB to construct a counter proposal and submit it to TSSA Management. Our members spent five weeks exploring ideas for an alternative that would reduce costs, save money and give the TSSA a structure that would protect its ability to organise and represent transport workers. A thoroughly consulted counter proposal which involved no outsourcing, reduced proposed job losses by over 40% and was still within the staffing budget that management had set, was backed by our members and submitted to TSSA Management.

Two days before this submission was due the General Secretary declared consultation was over.

We have had no choice but to call a day’s strike action.

Our members have also been shocked at TSSA Management’s willingness to use anti-trade union laws and union busting tactics to try and frustrate our members’ legitimate action, including:

  • Sending threatening solicitors letters citing alleged irregularities in ballot notifications, in an attempt to get GMB to withdraw the ballot
  • Asking staff to declare in writing that they are “not on strike” if they have booked leave on our strike day in order to publicise alleged scabbing.
  • Instructing staff to detail the impact of their strike action to enable Management (who are also GMB members) to strike-break against their own union
  • Cancelling facilities for union meetings with a just a few hours’ notice in an effort to prevent us from finalising our counter-proposal

What sort of Trade Union leadership uses these tactics instead of sitting down to resolve the deeply held concerns of the staff?

GMB members at TSSA have many decades of frontline trade union organising experience between them, and some of the worst employers we deal with behave better than this. GMB members of staff at TSSA are committed to our members in the transport and travel industries. It has been a difficult and painful decision to take strike action against a Trade Union employer, but we cannot allow our GMB members jobs to be cut and outsourced, and the future of the union to be threatened by the ill-prepared and short-termist proposals of TSSA Management.

At this time we only have one demand – the General Secretary must re-enter talks with the staff reps so we can bring the union back together and reach a negotiated solution.

What can you do to help?

Send a message of support to striking GMB members at gmbnorthwestlondon@gmail.com

Visit our picket line from 9.00 on 26 March 2014 outside TSSA’s Head Office, Walkden House, 10 Melton Street NW1 2EJ

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