Analysis Breaking Exclusive

Exclusive: TSSA ‘suppressed’ merger approach from RMT, put only talks with right-wing GMB to members

Letter from RMT head Mick Lynch last month offered talks but TSSA insiders say offer covered up by figures now condemned by Kennedy report on sexual harassment

The scandal-hit TSSA union, whose management-backed merger with a right-wing US union fell through last year, has been in talks with another right-run union, the GMB – recently condemned for a move to bypass the IWGB gig workers’ union at food delivery firm Deliveroo – about a potential merger.

Both the TSSA and GMB have been rocked by recent sexual harassment scandals. The GMB’s then-general secretary retired on health grounds after anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct – and a report concluded that misogyny, sexual harassment and bullying were ‘endemic’ in the union.

And this week Baroness Kennedy’s scathing report on sexual harassment in the TSSA said that harassment had been wilfully ignored by the union’s management and recommended the removal of several members of its top management, with several already either gone or suspended as a result. The merger talks with GMB reportedly grew out of an approach from TSSA for advice on how to ‘manage’ its own scandal.

But while the proposed merger with GMB outraged many TSSA staff and activists, Skwawkbox can reveal that an offer of talks with the RMT transport union – which would appear to make far more sense as it operates in the same industry as TSSA – was made in writing by RMT general secretary Mick Lynch last month to acting TSSA general secretary Frank Ward.

But the offer was not put to members or their elected representatives, with insiders claiming it was ‘suppressed’ by the same management now condemned by the Kennedy Report:

While TSSA’s management have kept a low profile during the ongoing rail dispute, the performance of Lynch and his team has rattled the Establishment and been widely praised among the Labour movement. A merger with RMT would be a natural fit and would please the TSSA rank and file, but has been kept back.

Skwawkbox understands that Frank Ward – blisteringly criticised by Kennedy as part of an ‘locus of power’ within the union that was unfit for purpose and ignored sexual harassment complaints, and for agreeing a pay-off for former general secretary Manuel Cortes, after Cortes retired following allegations of sexual harassment, without obtaining the agreement of the union’s executive – is now on leave pending a decision by the union about his future.

Activists within TSSA have told Skwawkbox that there is widespread ‘fury’ among union staff and activists and the ‘suppression’ of the RMT’s approach and disgust at the idea of a merger with GMB.

The union was contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of writing.

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  1. The apathy that exists amongst trade union memberships is at the route of many of these problems. Sadly (as reflected in the consistently low turnouts) the vast majority of Union members have little to no interest in who is running their Union.

    1. You make a very good point. The situation is even worse in north America. Unless the Unions organise themselves democratically they will not survive. Indeed it is a moot point whether, given all the Thatcher era anti-union legislation, they can be said to have survived in anything more than a shell form.
      The domination of Union affairs by careerists and lawyers has alienated the membership which many leaders are very happy to treat as mere clients, paying small monthly fees for the services they provide.
      Dramatic reform is needed. It should begin with the principle that no Union officer should earn more than the average member at work.

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