RMT has reported that Sodexo, the outsourcing giant which runs TfL staff canteens, has backed down from its threat to make workers compulsorily redundant.
As we reported previously, Sodexo was planning to slash 30 jobs on the contract as part of a restructure that will also see canteens move away from freshly-cooked food towards serving microwave meals. Sodexo wanted workers to reapply for positions under the new structure, and those who weren't successful were faced with the prospect of unemployment - in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and in the run-up to Christmas.
Thanks for RMT pressure, that threat has been seen off. Sodexo has committed that no-one who wants to remain employed will be made redundant.
It's not a total victory, as Sodexo still plans to go ahead with its restructure. This means some jobs will be lost through voluntary redundancy, and others will be effectively "de-skilled". RMT is continuing to organise against that, and to demand firmer guarantees to protect and improve terms and conditions. But the no-compulsory-redundancies guarantee will be a huge relief for these - low-paid, mainly migrant - workers.
There are some important lessons here in how unions should fight job cuts. When Sodexo announced its cuts, RMT didn't set out to negotiate the terms of defeat by accepting cuts as inevitable, and simply aim to support workers through the redundancy consultation process. It declared a policy of opposition to the restructure as a whole, and organised members on that basis. When a formal industrial dispute was declared and ballot for strikes planned, it was because RMT activists had spoken to workers and build a mood for a fightback. Even when it doesn't achieve total victory, that combative stance makes it much easier to win concessions. RMT also looked to apply additional leverage by organising amongst directly-employed TfL/LU staff who use the canteens. A mass petition campaign opposing the restructure has so far garnered over 600 signatures.
This fight will continue, but Sodexo workers can take confidence from having gained a vital concession. As workers face a wave of cuts across industries, every successful act of resistance should inspire others to fight back.