(Pictured: Unite members at #Oct20 anti-austerity protest, London 2012)
If talks are approved by TSSA members, it could see the specialist rail workers’ union becoming a new section of Unite by February or March next year.
The combination will bring together around 250,000 Unite members in buses, air transport, road haulage, docks and waterways with TSSA’s 23,000 members in rail and travel offices.
This morning’s announcement follows several months of merger talks between the TSSA and RMT which were broken off after negotiators failed to resolve differences over the TSSA’s continued Labour Party affiliation and RMT’s backing for non-Labour candidates in parliamentary elections.
Officials stress that these merger talks did not break down over industrial issues and that the ultimate goal of creating a single union for all transport workers in the UK remains on their agenda.
The announcement comes as the ballot opens for renewal of Unite’s Political Fund. Voting ends on May 22nd.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey welcomed the merger proposal as an opportunity to make the union stronger.
He said: “For the first time, workers across all forms of transport will be united in a single union – that can only help hard-pressed employees, and put big transport companies on notice to shape up.
“TSSA’s proud traditions in the rail sector, its present commitment to organising workers and the strong industrial logic make this a natural step to take.”
Both unions have recently run active campaigns aimed at linking with community organisations and both general secretaries are seen as being on the left of the UK union movement.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This will secure a very powerful voice for TSSA members well into the future.
“As a result of privatisation and deregulation, the vast majority of TSSA members now work for the same multinational companies as transport workers within Unite.
“In addition, the negotiating hand of our travel trade members will be greatly strengthened by being part of a union that organises the airline industry.
“Teaming up with Unite will deliver a stronger campaigning union – a force to be reckoned with!”
Details of the merger talks will be discussed at TSSA’s annual conference in Glasgow later this month.
If delegates approve the first steps, officials say the principle of a merger with Unite would be put to a national ballot of TSSA’s members.
Of Unite’s 1.5 million members, around 250,000 are in the various transport sectors. TSSA’s membership is mainly in the rail industry, with some employed in the travel trade and across other forms of transport.