TSSA and the Boilermakers

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Tue, 21/09/2021 - 16:41,
TSSA logo

TSSA has announced plans to merge with another union, "The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers." Never heard of them? Possibly because they are based in the United States.

That's right, TSSA's leadership think the way to strengthen the union is to merge with workers on a different continent. Yes, unity is strength, and of course our class is international, but it is strength and unity of workers in the workplace and the a picket line that wins, not a bureaucratic merging of organisations based on opposite sides of the world.

It is hard to see how the merger will work logistically. TSSA say they need to do this to cut costs, but how? Would there be a single general secretary straddling continents? Will the merged union have a single, time-zone busting admin team? Maybe a regional organiser could do one week in Manchester, UK and the next in Massachusetts, US? Not that unions should ever be cutting jobs in such a way, of course...

Not only is the merger geographically illogical, it's industrially illogical too. If TSSA wants to look at standing in solidarity with other workers, they should be looking to the workers across the mess room table, RMT members, rather than those who work in different industries on the opposite side of the world. There are also democratic questions: will TSSA members (and, for that matter, IBB members) have a say in any of this, or will the merger be cooked up between the unions' respective bureaucracies and presented to members as a fait accompli?

TSSA recently wrote to members to highlight the threat of cuts in the (UK) rail industry. The focus of the communication, however, wasn't to build industrial action to try and stop these cuts. Rather, they laid out that they thought an international merger would save the union when, as the doom-laden letter assumed, membership numbers would be massacred due to sweeping redundancies' in the rail industry.

TSSA must instead organise to fight the cuts facing us. If TSSA member want to make the union stronger, they should take action to build it into a militant and progressive one. If there is to be a merger, or closer working, with another union, look to the union that already operates in the same workplaces as TSSA: RMT. Surely that is a better option than to suggest massive cuts are inevitable and instead focus on merging with a union that operates over 4,000 miles away?

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