THE STRENGTHS and weaknesses of the Transport Salaried Staff Associations (TSSA) were highlighted at this year's annual conference. TSSA has historically relied on the militancy of the RMT to win pay claims in the past.
But with privatisation of the rail, militancy has been thrust upon TSSA and significant industrial action has been supported. Campaigns have won back union recognition at Network Rail and Silverlink along with several other union recognition agreements won in companies not previously unionised.
Despite general secretary Richard Rosser being a Blair loyalist, there was zero support for the war-not even from Rosser himself. The executive committee restated its support for the Stop the War Coalition while president David Porter and many other TSSA members marched under the union's banners on 15 February.
Motions condemning the war went through unopposed as did motions calling for solidarity with the Palestinians and an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Delegates were determined to give Labour a bloody nose. Nineteen motions, rule alterations and amendments were discussed which Rosser or one of his senior management team attacked as attempts to disaffiliate from the Labour Party. One motion would have allowed the democratisation of the political fund. It won about 50 percent of the vote.
The frustration of Labour Party members was typified by Steve Wiltshire who said, 'I do not want to return in another year and have to tear up my party card from this rostrum.'
Peter Woods added, 'How can we continue to give our money to MPs who then go and vote for war in Iraq?'
While Rosser stopped a defeat for New Labour and won one motion giving support to the Labour Party the fact that so many branches and delegates were deadly serious about the threat of disaffiliation is extraordinary.