(Apologies to Samuel Beckett and Consolidated)
A Network Rail track worker writes ...
Here we are again, just like last the last pay claim. Leave it long enough and pretend that the final offer is somehow a great achievement.
Just to remind everybody, not one of the original demands in our play claim has been met. RPI is not a true reflection of the cost of living yet the fact we caught management trying to sneak in the use of CPI, an even worse representation of the cost of living, is somehow seen as a triumph of ‘radical’ trade union leadership. Keeping the present employment terms and conditions for new starters is not radical, it's trade unionism 101, but again, it's waved about like we’ve just won a general strike.
The south east allowance will be kept, but with no increase now or in future years: this is explicit in the offer. This has been allowed to slide over the years and now seems to be an embarrassment to our leadership who want it to die away as its value decreases.
The 'no compulsory redundancies' policy has been in place since 2010 and is always part of our pay claim. While not being automatic, the commitment no compulsory redundancies is an aim in itself, not a bargaining chip. Neither should it be agreed that this will definitely end in 2021. That is another fight which our leadership should be laying the grounds for.
A union willing to sacrifice the relative protection of our present conditions for a lousy pay offer, with no guarantees of what will be acceptable, is no way to convince the membership that it wants to fight.
The loss of free/ privileged travel when we were privatised is a longstanding scar as new starters see old hands keeping this and wonder why the union has not seriously fought for this for all members.
The role of joint working parties has always been suspect. The idea that our Reps should sit down at a table and talk to these people as though it can all be sorted out without any need for industrial action is one of the great myths of our time. How many times have we ever gained from this sort of negotiation? More often than not it leads to ‘trial’ areas that bleed out to the whole country while ‘Canutes’ in head office tell us to stop the tide of changes their inactivity has helped create.
This pay claim has the ring of the old adage. First time as tragedy, second time as farce. Unfortunately, it is now multiple times as farce, with the same old rubbish being wheeled out. We need a leadership which takes the fight seriously, plans for combat, agitates accordingly and aims to win the concessions we all deserve.
RMT's National Executive is recommending this shabby offer to a meeting of reps on 16 May. Our hope of salvaging a decent deal depends on members making it clear to reps that we do not accept this recommendation and that we are prepared to fight for more.