Call to support and stamp out unacceptable working conditions for our members who are facing the tyranny of their scabby employers but the might of TOCs and their contractual arrangements with their suppliers.
Over two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a RMT reps course at Doncaster. What struck me was how, on the whole, the working conditions of the other course members differed to the members I represent - onboard catering hosts working for a contractor.
I'm not talking about the hourly rate of pay, I'm referring to the terms and conditions that many take for granted. There are no sick pay schemes, holidays and lieu days are deemed a luxury and one train operator is now insisting that onboard hosts ask the guard permission to use the toilet.
Their safety is always in jeopardy, the majority of services are full and standing and there is no method of communication in the event of an emergency for the catering host to be able to contact any member of the onboard staff for support. It's seems they aren't important enough to require access to a simple tannoy system or any form of onboard communication.
On top of the problems I have mentioned above, the biggest danger of all isn't Joe Public. It is the TOC and the powers they have over our workmates as a 'third party'.
Recently, an onboard host was attacked after he challenged passengers after receiving a complaint from an elderly passenger that they had been taking drugs and behaving out of control in the First Class compartment. The onboard host complained to the employer about the lack of support he received, and when this came to nothing, escalated it to the TOC.
The host was suspended on a trumped-up charge but cleared after investigation. But the TOC decided that they no longer wanted the host on board, and is perfectly within its legal rights to stop anyone working on their trains.
The outcome was that the host had to undertake a 'development plan', put together by the TOC with all kinds of weird and wonderful stipulations. He is now suspended based on another trumped-up charge.
Now after me sharing this example, this is just one of many that are taking place on a day to day basis. How do we stamp out this kind of behaviour?
I believe the answer is to take action. Any such instances should be raised as formal disputes and in cases like this; should be taken to the door of the TOC. If we mobilise our members who work on these outsourced contracts and tell such companies that this won't be tolerated, what is the worst that can happen?
Concluding; where have we failed as a union? Onboard services and cleaning staff were at one time under the umbrella of British Rail - how have these companies managed to enforce their scabby working conditions on our members? There are probably many reasons for why and how this happened; sadly this is now in the past.
The only thing we can do is to challenge this, remain united, increase our membership, agitate our oppressors, educate and organise our members.