TSSA rail union members like myself were shocked to read the horrific bullying and harassment detailed in Baroness Helena Kennedy’s recent report. The outcome so far has been the sacking of our general secretary Manuel Cortes. Our organising director, along with others in the senior management team, are yet to face a disciplinary process. Some in senior management suppressed the sexual harassment cases.
TSSA full time staff were intimidated with threats of disciplinaries or performance reviews. The case was brought forward by the courageous actions of former TSSA worker Claire Laycock, who, along with others, exposed the issue through interviews with Reel News. Reel News, then backed by legal support from the journalists’ NUJ union, successfully defeated a high court injunction. TSSA initiated this to silence the scandal.
The executive committee agreed to an independent investigation following pressure from TSSA’s Women in Focus group and MeTU run by activists from the TUC union federation. TSSA branch motions also demanded an end to non-disclosure agreements being used to suppress sexual harassment cases and supported the call for an independent investigation. TSSA currently has no elected general secretary, president, or treasurer. But our leadership, despite the crisis, is still intent on progressing the merger proposals with the GMB union initiated by the old leadership.
That’s despite a similar unresolved history of sexism within the GMB. Around half of our active branches have written to the executive committee to demand a special delegate conference to debate the merger proposals. Many TSSA members and representatives are calling for a merger with the RMT or to remain independent.
A merger with the RMT is in our members’ interests and is feared by our employers. We must rebuild democracy and transparency in our union. We must also support the calls demanded by MeTU across the union movement and learn the lessons from divisions among transport unions in our fight for fair pay.
Media coverage is full of racism
Constance Marten, daughter of a former page to the queen and aristocrat Napier Marten, and her partner Mark Gordon have dominated headlines. They were on the run, and now the body of their month-old baby has been found. It’s a tragic incident. But why does it not surprise me that people would step into the sewer and blame a black man for the downfall of an aristocrat’s daughter?
Let’s not waste any time in asking ourselves if there would be the same coverage if it were a white man involved. We live in a society where racism from the gutter press has helped shape people’s minds. We should be grateful that the couple are apparently safe.
Let’s ask why they decided to abscond, what was going through their minds, what was the background and what they were afraid of? Why did they put their newborn baby at such high risk? And I assume the reason it took just six minutes for the couple to be arrested in Brighton was because the police were deployed in such high numbers.
But one thing is for certain—people are looking at this through the prism of race rather than the actions of humans. We really need to ask why this is being made a race issue by the media.
Football is a one-sided game favouring the rich
The government’s plan for a new football regulator is not enough to change the game. The regulator has been recommended in a White Paper following a fan-led review into football. A major element of the review was a more stringent test on owners and directors to ensure more money reaches the grassroots game. Opportunities to play football casually are few and far between with austerity measures meaning that many pitches have closed.
If you want to play women’s football or to access football for those with a disability it is even harder. The Premier League outspent the other top European Football Leagues combined in January. Yet opportunities to play at non-league and even for fun are not increasing—money is stuck at the top of the tree.
The Covid inquiry wants to ignore racism
The inquiry into the Covid pandemic won’t consider structural racism in all its modules. If the inquiry ignores the part racism played, it proves everything that anti-racists have been saying about institutional racism in Britain. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign is pressuring the inquiry to put racism at the centre of its investigations—and rightly so.
Almost all minority ethnic groups were more likely to die from the virus. Black people were at least four times more likely to die. The inquiry is on its first module looking at pandemic preparations. But it won’t consider why the death rate in the earliest phase of the pandemic was three times greater for Bangladeshi men.
Or why it was twice as high for Pakistani women than white women, or why the first people to die of the virus in Britain were black. But remember, minority people weren’t more likely to catch the virus randomly. That too is thanks to structural racism—whether it’s the jobs people are more likely to do or the conditions they have to live in.
Give Shamima her citizenship
Shamima Begum was born in Britain. She didn’t give up her citizenship. As a minor aged 15 under British law, she wouldn’t have been able to. She hasn’t been charged with any breach of the law either.
Give Begum back her citizenship. Only then, if there’s evidence, prosecute her for any potential crimes. To make someone stateless goes against numerous international conventions and laws. But what do you expect from the Tories? Certainly not empathy.
Freedom for Palestine
Israel is an apartheid state. Palestinians’ lives and homes are being destroyed to make way for settlers that want Palestinians to disappear. The violence of Israel is at best ignored by the West, and at worst supported by the likes of Britain and the US. Freedom for Palestine cannot be ignored. It has to be a central demand always—not just when Israel carries out raids and drops bombs.
No fairness in capitalism
A four day working week (Socialist Worker, 1 March) is pie in the sky under capitalism. There are too many exemptions and it’s not enforceable. There’s no such thing as a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay under capitalism. Just look at the 800 P&O ferry workers—sacked with no justice.
Unite to win trans rights
Some on the left need to remember that those who oppose trans rights are the same people that want to rip abortion rights. We have the same enemy—it’s time we fought together.