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TSSA conference 2015: ‘Weak stance on austerity led to defeat’

Labour attacked over ambivalent message

TRANSPORT union leaders took Labour to task yesterday, blaming the party’s “two-way” message on austerity for its catastrophic general election results.

Opening the 2015 conference of transport union TSSA, president Mick Carney told his membership that the party’s defeat was an “unmitigated disaster” that needed careful assessment by the movement.

“We failed to get across our message. In some ways, I’m not even sure what our message was,” he told a room packed with delegates.

“We seemed to face two ways on austerity and the constant attacks on the poor.There will be some austerity, but not as much as the other lot are offering — not very persuasive, is it?”

Mr Carney added that, while he knew the Scottish National Party was not averse to cuts and had flogged off Scotrail to their biggest donor, Stagecoach boss Brian Souter, he had to concede that “at least the nationalists offered a message of hope.”

This year’s conference was marked by the appeals from the leadership for more input from the grassroots.

The TSSA has lost 10,000 members in the last decade and seen its membership age as pensioner branches grew.

General secretary Manuel Cortez appealed for action against Tory plans to hobble trade unions.

“The Tories are coming for us,” he warned. “This is not a hidden plan — this is
written in their manifesto.

“It’s in black and white what they intend to do with us. There is no hidden agenda.

“We’ve got a duty, we’ve got a responsibility to try and foil them at every turn, but I tell you we ain’t going to do that if we are not involving more of our members in this union.”

Mr Cortez said that the union’s structure needed to change and that the change could only come from the workers.

“The only people I have is you,” he said. “You are the people that do it, you are the people who can change. I can’t do this for you.

“You are the people who need to take that leap of faith and say: ‘We want to do something different’.”

With the TSSA joining the first nationwide rail strike in 20 years on May 25, there was plenty of hope that a new generation of transport workers would be inspired to join the union.


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