Rail unions

Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers

Published on: Thu, 03/07/2008 - 09:31

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 of the existing rail unions, so it is only fair that we set out in more positive terms what our ideal union might look like. Let's call it the Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers (FURT).

Some of the good things about this fantasy union could be put in place by changes in rules and ways of

Strikes at Virgin, West Midlands, South Western Railway

Published on: Wed, 06/11/2019 - 07:39

Ollie Moore and Jay Dawkey

Rail union RMT has called strikes on Virgin Trains, West Midlands Trains, and South Western Railway (SWR).

On the latter, the union has named a calendar of strikes throughout November and December, which will see walkouts on 16, 23, and 30 November, and 7, 14, 21, and 28 December. West Midlands Trains is the latest Train Operating Company to see its workers plan industrial action over the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO).

On Virgin Trains, train managers, a grade of customer-facing train crew, on the West Coast franchise will strike on 19 November to demand the reinstatement of an

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 30/10/2019 - 08:48

Darren Bedford, Ollie Moore and Jay Dawkey

Postal workers are discussing the timing of potential strikes, likely aimed at disrupting “Black Friday” retail deliveries on Friday 29 November, and/or Christmas post, after the Communication Workers Union (CWU) strike ballot returned a 97% majority for action on a 76% turnout.

The CWU’s Head of Communications Chris Webb, in an article for Tribune magazine discussing the successful ballot result, wrote: “Most crucial of all were our 1,250 workplace meetings.

“The explosive combination of the workplace meetings being posted on social media created a competitive feeling in our membership

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 23/10/2019 - 07:41

Charlie George and Tom Saff

USDAW, the shopworkers union, is facing a financial shortfall due to large numbers of its members being made redundant.

This is particularly felt at Tesco, which is the largest employer for the union’s members, but also where the union has refused to put up any resistance to the loss of around 9,000 jobs this last year.

Instead of launching a massive recruitment campaign or fighting back against the bosses, the union is instead considering getting rid of the part-time rate for new members, at its next annual conference, presumably a prelude to getting rid of it all together.

This would double

DOO resisted on Merseyrail, but the fight isn't over

Published on: Wed, 16/10/2019 - 20:15

RMT is announcing a "major breakthrough" on Merseyrail, after negotiations produced a new offer including a method of train dispatch which retains control of the doors for the guard, in line with RMT policy.

The union says the "fine detail" still needs working out, but the fact that it has suspended the strikes it planned for every Saturday through November and December is a pretty conclusive signal that the RMT NEC believes the dispute is now reaching its endgame.

Make no mistake: defeating the company's attempts to impose DOO will be a huge achievement on its own terms, and is something that would not have been achieved without the solid industrial action workers have taken, backed up by solidarity from Aslef drivers. Merseyrail workers should be congratulated for this exceptional resolve, and other workers can take inspiration from yet another reminder that direct action really does get the goods.

But before we pop the champagne, we need to examine any strings that might be attached. Previous deals have included completely unacceptable strings, such as offsetting the cost of retaining guards' jobs by cutting cleaners' jobs. These offers should never have made it out of the talks; the fact that RMT NEC spent any time considering offers that were an affront to the basic principles of industrial unionism was frankly a waste of time that slowed momentum.

Those proposals are now gone, but more recent proposed settlements, including the most recent, included a plan to put new starters on worse terms and conditions - longer hours for less pay - than existing guards. With negotiations on the "fine detail" of the offer ongoing, RMT reps will have to push to get those strings removed. But without the additional pressure and leverage of looming strikes, they only have persuasive words to rely on. It will now be extremely hard to reinstate action, having called, and then suspended, strikes twice in the last month alone.

It's a difficult argument to ask existing workers to make sacrifices, by losing pay on strike days, for workers who aren't even on the job yet, but the alternative - accepting a deal that screws over future staff to protect the conditions of current ones - risks undermining union organisation on the job going forward. If a two-tier deal is accepted, you can guarantee that mischief-making managers will be pouring poison in the ear of new guards from day one: "Thinking of joining the RMT? You know they accepted a deal that means you're working longer hours and earning less money?"

Ultimately the decision on where to go next has to be led from the shopfloor, on the basis of whether workers feel confident to fight on. But if the bosses do insist on strings, then a discussion must be had about extending the exceptional resolve workers have shown so far to fight for those strings to be cut.

Oh, and one more thing. We couldn't heklp but notice that in the RMT press release, the General Secretary thanks the regional organise by name. Very unusual. You'd think there was an election on.

Trade Unions

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Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 16/10/2019 - 07:31

Gerry Bates, Dom Sztyber, Darren Bedford and Ollie Moore

The ballot for general secretary of the civil service union PCS will open on 7 November and close on 12 December.

For the first time in 18 years, the sitting general secretary, Mark Serwotka, faces a challenge from the left.

Bev Laidlaw, the Independent Left candidate, got 17 branch nominations, topping the number of 15 required to get on the ballot paper.

Serwotka got 62 nominations. The candidate backed by the Socialist Party, Marion Lloyd, got 39.

The SP was a dominant force in the union, closely allied with Serwotka, until about a year and a half ago.

In the Assistant General Secretary

Northern: New Deal for Drivers Hits the Buffers

Published on: Wed, 09/10/2019 - 17:02

Rumours reach us that Northern's unpopular New Deal for Drivers (NDfD) is dead. We hope that's true. Time for the Northern drivers' Company Council to get into pay talks, reject the derisory 2.75% offer that the other unions look set to knock back and rejoin the collective bargaining process to help win a better offer via dispute. ASLEF can get better pay for its members the right way, by working with the other unions to win a better settlement. Now is the time to have the pay dispute that we should have followed through in 2014/15.

Once that's done, perhaps reps can pick through the wreckage of the NDfD, pick up the bits of it that were worth having and work with the membership on a harmonisation proposal that's based on levelling-up, without any of the employer's booby traps, loopholes or loose wording.

Harmonisation of terms and conditions and Sundays inside the working week are desirable things but we won't get them by attempting to push them through on the employer's terms. We need to unite behind our own proposals and take the fight to the company.

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“Twenty additional colleagues”?

Published on: Wed, 09/10/2019 - 08:50

Ollie Moore

London Underground’s response to the successful ballot for action on the East End of the District Line over workplace violence has been to announce “20 additional colleagues”.

Good news, you might think. An acknowledgement that lone working and understaffing are the fundamental problems. But alas, the reality is not so encouraging.

These “colleagues” aren’t additional tube staff, but staff drafted in from Transport for London’s (TfL) Surface Transport department – workers who deal with taxi enforcement and revenue issues on buses. They are not trained or licensed to work on tube stations. They


Northern guards: put the action back on!

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 22:39

Word has it that Northern Rail management have come up with a spiffing new idea for undermining the role of guard, and seem to think that we may be daft enough not to see through it.

It goes like this. The train pulls in to the station. The driver opens the doors. The guards steps onto the platform. When the PTI is clear, the guard presses the buzzer to tell the driver that it is safe to close the doors. The driver closes the doors.

Of course, there is the small matter that the buzzer is not live while the doors are open. But in case they get a technical fix for that, the bigger question is: If the guard can press a buzzer to communicate with the driver, then why can't the guard press a button to close the doors?

The answer, of course, is that they can. So why would the company get the guard to press something to tell the driver to close the doors when they can just as easily have them press something to close the doors themselves? The only answer to that question is that their longer-term aim is to scrap the guard.

First, it will be the guard pressing a buzzer to tell the driver. Then it'll be in-cab CCTV meaning that no guard is needed. We can see where this is going, amd this plan is not acceptable.

We say 'Word is ...' because it has been hard to find out for certain what is going on. Discussions are taking place behind closed doors and above the heads even of our company council reps. RMT promised its guard members in July that it would give us an update by the end of September. That was frustrating enough, but it is now October and we still have no definite news.

If the union keeps on keeping us in the dark, it will find that our patience runs out. We have been fighting this dispute for a long time and we won't allow all the momentum to drain out of it.

It is high time for us to go back on strike, and not stop our action again until we have secured the future of the guard.


Submitted by Uncle Joe (not verified) on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 08:53

It's a fabrication to say Company and even local council level reps have not been involved.

Company council reps have been part of the negotiations on the method of work and local level reps attended consultations in July, one in Doncaster and one in Liverpool to be briefed and asked for feedback. All reps attending believed the proposed method of work was acceptable. Aside that, in true democratic fashion all members are now being asked about how they now want the direction of this dispute to go.

Typical Trot nonsense from the AWL, trying to tell the woring class what to think.

Submitted by Shelagh Hewitt (not verified) on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 12:45

Company council were not involved in the ACAS talks that led to this idea. From RMT there was Mick Cash, Micky Thompson and Steve Nott. I asked the question about who was involved at our branch meeting which was incidentally attended by our chair of company council, Billy Kimm. Steve Nott attended our next branch meeting and confirmed who was there. I notice you don’t actually print your name but I would like to know where you got your information from.

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Brexit, the white working class and liberal left

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 11:19

Six months ago now a debate was sparked by comments made by Eddie Dempsey, an activist for “full Brexit” and in the rail union RMT, at a “Full Brexit” rally on 26 March.

Dempsey said that “people that turn up for those Tommy Robinson demos or any other march like that – the one thing that unites those people, whatever other bigotry is going on, is their hatred of the liberal left and they are right to hate them” (emphasis added).

He further commented that “too many in the Labour Party have made a calculation that there’s a certain section at the top end of the working class, in alliance with

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