Off The Rails's blog

Off The Rails, February 2021

Our printable Off The Rails bulletin urges action to break the pay freeze that companies across the industry are trying to impose, and looks at various issues within Network Rail. Download it here.

Network Rail: no backdoor job cuts!

Last year, Network Rail pushed through a costly reorganisation called 'Putting Passengers First'. It created new regional structures, devolved some centralised functions, deleted some job roles and created others. It displaced people, but it did not intend to reduce headcount overall.

But before...

Pay: Network Rail says "Don't get your hopes up!"

We've been told that pay talks for all grades in Network Rail will start in February. But the company has set the tone by emailing us to say that the TOCs are freezing pay and money is tight.

The pay rise for ops and maintenance was due in January, so Network Rail has already dragged its heels...

Network Rail: do black workers matter?

Network Rail has just published its ethnicity pay gap report for 2020. The results are a bit better than Network Rail's first report last year but still show big problems.

The ethnicity pay gap is the difference in the average hourly rate of pay for workers from black and ethnic minorities...

Happy New Year?

The Network Rail Chief Executive's New Year's message to staff was a warning about financial challenges facing the industry, rail reform and uncertain times ahead.

January 2021 is also the first time that Network Rail employees are no longer covered by a No Compulsory Redundancies Agreement. As...

Rail unions must mobilise to resist Tories' pay freeze!

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has written to Train Operating Company (TOC) bosses to tell them there is "no budget" for any further subsidies to increase workers' pay.

TOCs are private companies and can set their own pay policy, but this is as close to an imposition of a pay freeze on...

Merseyrail: vote yes for action!

RMT launched a new ballot for industrial action on Merseyrail on 21 January. The vote runs until 11 February.

The union gave bosses a November deadline to open talks on a new pay settlement. With the employer having failed to meet that deadline, the union quite rightly declared a dispute and has...

Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers

What kind of union do we need? There are strengths and weaknesses in our current union set-up. Union officials will often have you believe that things can only be done the way they are done, because ... well, because they have always been done that way.

We do not agree. We have several criticisms...

Don't curtail RMT democracy!

RMT activists are rightly fond of emphasising that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) is the "parliament of the union", the highest democratic assembly with supreme decision making power. The 2020 AGM obviously took place in exceptional circumstances, and was conducted on Zoom. On the first day of the...

Notts Off The Rails

Introducing Notts Off The Rails - a rank-and-file bulletin for rail workers in Nottingham - online here.

Cover Up

Good to see that station security guards have now got the bodycams they’ve been promised for years; bad that it took a serious assault on one of them to achieve it. After that happened security personal were told that they should only observe and report incidents but not to get involved; we hope...

Mind the Gap

It is a depressing fact that although women are 51% of the population only 16% of the current rail workforce is female; this figure falls to a shocking 6.5% amongst train drivers.
A recent report into railway recruitment, ‘Back on Track’, noted that 43% of women rated flexible working opportunities...

Scotrail dispute: a view from the shop floor

This is a "shopfloor" view of the ongoing dispute between Abellio Scotrail and its employees. It should be noted, though, that the majority of RMT members did not want to take this action, especially at this time. However, like most dealings with private, for-profit companies, nothing is ever that...

ScotRail and TransPennine Express workers ballot for strikes

RMT is balloting members on ScotRail and TransPennine Express in disputes over pay and conditions.

Nearly 2,500 workers are being balloted on ScotRail, in a vote that closes on 8 December. An RMT statement said: "The union has been trying to secure a pay rise for 2020 for all Scotrail workers...

Alstom workers strike to smash pay freeze

Alstom workers have launched a series of strikes, aiming to smash a pandemic pay freeze imposed by penny-pinching bosses.

The workers, who perform maintenance on rolling stock, struck at depots on Alstom's West Coast contract on 29-30 November, and will strike again on 3-4, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18, and...

Stalinist in-jokes won’t build a healthy union

The RMT Young Members Committee has designed a new badge. Nothing wrong with that. But the slogan on the badge, "Always vigilant", has a meaning that is less than edifying. While “vigilance committees” in the unions under the influence of the Communist Party of the 1920s are worthy of study, if not...

ScotRail guards to strike

ScotRail guards based at Glasgow Central station will strike every Sunday between 29 November and 3 January, in a dispute over bosses' abuse of disciplinary procedure.

The strikes are accompanied by a ban on overtime, rest day working, and higher grade working from 30 November to 2 January....

Mick Cash to retire: organise the rank and file!

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash has announced his retirement, only a year into his second term. The announcement was made during a chaotic Annual General Meeting, conducted online. Many delegates and union activists had criticised various aspects of AGM proceedings, including a decision by the union...

The Story of Colour Bars on the UK Railway

Speaking at our online meeting in September, Janine Booth tells the story of the period after the end of the Second World War when black people came to Britain but met opposition from some white workers, until the 'colour bar' was defeated in 1966.

Strike Wakes Up Sleeper Bosses

Readers might (or might not) remember the old 'pantries' on the Caledonian Sleeper. Staff used these to get some downtime during the night - not even a kip, just a sitdown, a break.

When the company refurbished the sleeper, the company assured staff were assured that there would still be areas...

Report from Inverness Sleeper picket

Despite the horrific weather conditions, there was a great turnout on the picket line at Inverness last night to stand with striking Caledonian Sleeper staff.

Placards and leaflets publicised the case for the strike, and tea, coffee and chips kept spirits up. Special thanks to the GMB union for...

Rail workers say: Black Lives Matter!

Off The Rails supports the global protests against police brutality and racism.

The issues raised by the protests are not just problems in the USA. They affect us too. Britain has its own history of police violence against people of colour, with campaigns like the United Families and Friends...

On Guard!

The latest issue of On Guard - a rank-and-file bulletin for rail workers in Sheffield - is online here.

Making equality more than a buzzword

This article, by rail worker Becky Crocker, was first published in the Solidarity newspaper, here.




In recent months I have become increasingly aware of the lack of diversity in my workplace, a Network Rail office in London.

My suspicions about Network Rail were confirmed when I read in its...

The conflict in RMT

  • RMT must address mental health issues and bullying allegations
  • External investigation needed, but union must change itself
  • Genuine debate, criticism, and accountability is essential, and is not bullying
  • For a union led by members, through our lay representatives, not by officers
  • The National...
  • Fight all job cuts!

    Workers at the International Currency Exchange in St. Pancras are facing job cuts, with nine members of staff having been given redundancy notices. RMT reps are supporting them, but Off the Rails was a little alarmed to read some of the language in the union circular about the campaign.

    It...

    Stonehaven tragedy: solidarity and condolences

    We send our solidarity and condolences to the family, friends, and workmates of the three people - two workers and one passenger - who died in the Stonehaven derailment on 12 August.

    Donald Dinnie and Bret McCullough, the guard and driver killed, were members of RMT and Aslef respectively. Both...

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