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TSSA suspends former AGS – a year after awarding him its gold medal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/06/2024 - 9:19am in

Eslamdoust gives no specific reasons for yet another suspension of a critic of its woeful general secretary

The TSSA rail union has been riven by member disgust and staff walkouts over the conduct of its general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust.

Eslamdoust took over supposedly to put right the abuse and sexual harassment of the previous Cortes regime – yet has triggered an escalating staff strike and a series of no-confidence votes because of abuse, intimidation and what staff say is her high-handed behaviour and her lack of understanding of how unions work. She got the job of general secretary after the union’s executive asked members to vote for her despite a complete lack of relevant union experience.

And now Eslamdoust has suspended former TSSA assistant general secretary Steve Coe – who has been critical of her conduct and supportive of striking staff – without even giving details of any specific reason for the suspension. And as Coe pointed out on his Facebook profile, the suspension came a year almost to the day since he was awarded the union’s prestigious Gold Award for his services:

One TSSA member told Skwawkbox:

Is he bullying Maryam Eslamdoust by standing up for workers? This looks exactly like the way Keir Starmer behaves.

The suspension comes only a couple of days after Eslamdoust suspended another senior figure. On Monday, Marios Alexandrou found out that delegates to TSSA’s conference had elected him as Trustee of the union – and moments later he was told that Eslamdoust had suspended him and he could not take up his elected duties:

Conference attendees were informed of the suspension before Alexandrou, in what some union members considered a breach of data and privacy:

A small selection of comments from union members outraged by Alexandrou’s suspension

The conference was already in chaos, with more than half of delegates – seemingly those critical of Eslamdoust – prevented from entering and a no-confidence motion blocked from debate and a vote despite staff strikes escalating dramatically.

The workers are taking action against what they say is a continuation, under Eslamdoust, of the bullying, abuse and intimidation that was exposed under former general secretary Manuel Cortes – and accused Eslamdoust of crossing their picket line on the first day of strike action.

Staff also unanimously voted no confidence in Eslamdoust last month and have criticised what they say is a smear campaign mounted by the union’s management against them, extending even to communications to union members attacking staff and attempts to bypass striking workers to negotiate directly with the head of the GMB union that represents them at work. A union branch representing a third of all members has also voted no confidence in her.

Now staff are accusing their general secretary of using suspensions as a tool to protect herself from the consequences of her actions – and of doing so in a way reminiscent of Keir Starmer’s anti-democratic Labour regime.

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TSSA members in Network Rail London South vote no-confidence in Eslamdoust, Heywood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2024 - 8:15pm in

Motion and letter reveal deep dissatisfaction among members as branch says it will support union staff when they strike and accuses management of inflaming the problems and indulging in delusion

TSSA rail union members in south London have passed a motion of no confidence in the union’s general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust and its president Melissa Heywood over their conduct toward union staff and the GMB union that represents them at work.

The TSSA and Eslamdoust and her team have been in crisis since the Kennedy Report exposed widespread bullying and sexual harassment by senior union figures, leading to the sacking of former general secretary Manuel Cortes and Eslamdoust, who was supposedly going to clean up the union after the scandal. was rocked by fresh allegations of abuse and deep resentment against the new general secretary for the treatment of staff, particularly women.

Eslamdoust, who was recommended to members by the union’s executive despite what appears to be a complete lack of relevant experience, wrote a bizarre article for the Guardian in which she accused the GMB union of attempting to bully her so it could take over the TSSA and distract from its own renewed sexual harassment scandal, and tried to blame others for her failure to take meaningful action to implement the Kennedy Report’s recommendations.

Former TSSA Assistant General Secretary’s take on Eslamdoust’s actions

She then followed up her attack on the GMB by emailing all TSSA member branches with an astonishing assault branding the union’s workers as greedy and lazy, and treating the GMB union as if it, and not the unhappiness of TSSA staff, was the driver of the impending strike action for which more than 93% of staff voted last week.

Such is the anger among members at the situation that earlier this month the TSSA’s branch for members working in Network Rail in South London passed the following resolution:

That this branch has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

Our branch has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take industrial action, our branch will support them in this action.

The branch then sent a letter to the TSSA executive:

Network Rail London South Branch

Notice of vote of no confidence in TSSA Leadership of our General Secretary and President for circulation to TSSA Executive Committee

At our branch meeting on Thursday 11 April, we invited our General Secretary and President to respond to concerns that our branch has regarding the internal conflicts within our union.

Melissa Heywood did attend this meeting despite her partner being in hospital and joined via phone from her car in the hospital car park. Our branch very much appreciated her attendance, and it would have been entirely justifiable to give apologies, and not attend in these circumstances. Our branch meeting later agreed to specifically thank Melissa for attending this challenging meeting and will make that clear with a separate message to her. Maryam had indicated she would be attending but did not attend, although it was noted that there may have been family commitments for this non-attendance.

We presented an outline of our concerns which included the following:

TSSA had been through the massive challenge of removing the previous senior management team, including our General Secretary following an investigation and report by QC Helena Kennedy. There was a remarkable and positive consensus across the union to achieve these goals.

We have gone through the election process for a new General Secretary with Maryam being successful in that election, being endorsed by the Executive Committee. At that point Maryam had the overwhelming support of our union employees and members, with the hope that we had every prospect of a positive leadership that would have learnt from our previous conflicts.

Within weeks internal conflicts started to emerge, including one EC member leaving as he found the environment to be intolerable. The derecognition of Women in Focus was illegitimate and unnecessary.

Disputes between TSSA staff and the senior management team soon emerged, with complaints about non-compliance with agreements, accusations and counter accusations of bullying, with TSSA staff now moving to a ballot for industrial action, referencing “a culture of bullying, harassment and victimisation.”

The communications from our General Secretary to the employees appear to have inflamed rather than attempted to resolve this conflict. The article in the Guardian, in which the dispute is claimed by Maryam to be a takeover attempt by the GMB, can have done nothing but harm to our union and the GMB, and appears to have no basis in reality.

Subsequently there was evidence that our President liked a social media post that called for the derecognition of the GMB, which represents our employees in TSSA. There now appears to an extension of this conflict with the Executive Committee apparently agreeing this week to the suspension of three TSSA members who have been critical of the leadership.

Whilst it is not for our branch to consider the detail of the staff complaints, we should however be able to expect that our leadership acts in the best interest of our union and does not bring our union into disrepute. Currently, there appears to be no path to resolve this.

Our President responded to some of these challenges and to many others made in the meeting. There was however no indication that the leadership recognised that they have a responsibility to resolve the many conflicts which appear to have been caused by the action of the General Secretary and the President.

Our branch therefore proceeded to debate and vote for the following:

That this branch has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

Our branch has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take industrial action, our branch will support them in this action.

Invited to comment, a TSSA spokesperson said:

“The TSSA is committed to working with our staff to ensure that we have a union that is fit for purpose and fully focused on delivering for members. We have arranged talks with Acas on 24th April. However, so far, the GMB is refusing to take part. We hope the GMB leadership will reconsider its approach and join the talks.”

GMB reps among TSSA staff have accused Eslamdoust and her team of not informing them that they had approached ACAS, and of bypassing them to try to negotiate the dispute with GMB general secretary Gary Smith instead of engaging with workers and their representatives.

Other branches are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks. The workers’ first strikes will take place on 30 April and 4 June, including pickets of TSSA offices.

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Exclusive: Unite strike fund ‘collapses’ by over two thirds amid fall in membership

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/03/2024 - 5:47am in

Graham and team not providing official member numbers – and no finances signed off since 2021

Birmingham bin lorries stand idle during a strike under the previous Unite leadership

Unite’s strike fund has ‘collapsed’ by more than two thirds from the level current general secretary Sharon Graham inherited from the McCluskey administration – a level that allowed strike payments of £70 a day that Graham tried to claim credit for when she took over the job. The collapse appears to be driven by fall in Unite’s membership.

At the start of Graham’s tenure, Unite had built a strike fund of £35m, able to pay striking members enough to maintain large, lengthy disputes. However, as of last week the fund had fallen to just £11m in less than three years and Unite’s recent announcement of increased membership fees is explicitly linked to the collapse.

Skwawkbox understands that there have been ‘significant’ falls in membership numbers and dues, but the union management is not disclosing an exact figure – and insiders say that no finances have been ‘signed off’ since 2021. However, the latest working figures show that Unite’s cash account has also fallen by £13m, more than ten percent.

Unite has paid out more in strike support in the last two years, but the falling member numbers and an apparent lack of planning for the replenishment of funds have left the union looking ill-prepared for future battles, with only around eight months’ worth of funds in its reserve based on the last two years’ spending.

The planned subs rise, from 1 April, of a maximum of 22p a week with many paying much less, is apparently well0 short of what would be required to maintain the strike pay outgoings of the last two years, let alone rebuild the reserve.

One senior insider told Skwawkbox that the lack of transparency and the ‘collapse’ of the fund were a serious concern and that morale is ‘rock bottom’ among union officials because of the management’s conduct, including the lack of opposition to Israel’s genocide in Gaza. Ms Graham allegedly told elected officers that ‘Palestine is not a service Unite offers members’.

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