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

Tube unions on the case

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 09:12

Whether by local management showing common sense, or by frontline staff initiative for social distancing in Tube stations, we’ve seen:

• The use of tensa barriers and tape to mark distancing zones around gatelines and POMs (ticket machines)
• Staff rotation and redeployment around the station
• Repurposing of rooms around the station so staff don’t have to crowd into small mess rooms

In contrast is a station where the Area Manager has said, in writing, that they believe “business as usual” should prevail as much as possible. Union reps are on the case.

An employee bulletin has recommended

Running the Tube safely for essential workers

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 21:49

As of 29 March, these are the issues being worked on by the RMT union on London Underground, with the aim of keeping the service running for essential workers while also keeping it as safe as possible for those workers, for London Underground staff, and for everyone around them.

• Full pay for any ABM [cleaning contractor] staff who have to self-isolate — Agreed
• No detriment, including loss of pay, for anyone who stays home due to being in a vulnerable category (e.g., with an underlying health condition), but not identified by the NHS for “shielding”; or who stays home due to having a family

"Our union is an essential service": statement from members of RMT

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 21:49

The following statement has been put out by members of rail union RMT

During the Covid-19 crisis, workers need strong unions more than ever. Many employers are placing workers in danger, with unsafe working practices and refusing to pay wages to people who stay away from work under government guidance. Workforces need collective action, workers need reps, reps need union support.

RMT reps have been working hard on workplace issues throughout the crisis, and have won important victories and concessions in many companies, for example full pay for outsourced cleaners on London Underground who

Not all in it together: SSP lays off workers

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 16:51

In another episode that proves we're not "all in it together" during the pandemic, and that bosses are definitely not suspending class struggle from their side, Select Service Partners (the agency that provides workers for fast food and coffee concessions, and some other shops, at train stations) has laid off its workers, and says it wont pay them until the government's Job Retention Scheme is implemented. The workers were given just a single day's notice.

This is completely unacceptable. It throws thousands of low-paid workers into massive financial uncertainty at what is already a worrying and difficult time. Despite SSP having a formal recognition agreement with RMT, this action appears to have been taken entirely unilaterally.

The RMT is making a noise about this online. The union's statement rightly points the finger at Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies which own/operate the stations at which SSP-run concessions are located. They must intervene to insist that SSP pays its workers, taking SSP workers into direct employment if necessary. SSP has contracts with several major corporations, including Burger King, Starbucks, Marks and Spencer, and others. These firms should also be held responsible for the welfare of the workers who work in their railway station concessions.

Mass collective direct action might not be possible right now, but the union can still organise a storm of online and social media protest, directed at SSP bosses, demanding they pay their staff. Online and social media pressure from the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) was instrumental to getting Wetherspoons to reverse a similar policy for its workers. It can be done.

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Diary of a Tube worker: "He's in his office and he tells us to go outside"

Published on: Sun, 29/03/2020 - 14:16
Author

Jay Dawkey

“I dunno man, it can’t be right. Look at how many the flu kills, there is something up here. Look at the new laws, black boys gonna lose their lives in jail and they can bury them, no questions”.

E is holding forth in a control room that now has five of us in it. Two people could just about hope to be two metres away. At five it's an impossibility.

I’ve signed in, I’m not happy about it. I've been reallocated to full-time station work from training for a driver's job, after working stations weekends on the Night Tube. I find others in similar positions in the mess room. “I haven’t worked here

On Guard, March 2020 - Issue 22

Published on: Wed, 25/03/2020 - 22:13
Author

On Guard

On Guard is a rank and file bulletin by and for workers of all grades and companies at Sheffield rail. It is published by the socialist group Workers’ Liberty. Click the link below 👇 to download a PDF, email us at onguard.bulletin@gmail.com

No class peace in the crisis

Published on: Thu, 19/03/2020 - 11:39

A “joint statement”, published in the name of the Department for Transport (DfT), eight individual unions organising in the transport sector, and the TUC, has appeared online.

It reports the “first in a series of Ministerial calls” between the DfT and transport unions, and ends with an affirmation that “Transport Ministers have pledged to work tirelessly with the unions to support staff in the transport industry through not only the immediate challenges but also the issues that will affect the sector once the country has overcome this pandemic.”

Good news, you might think. If the pandemic has forced a hostile, anti-union Tory administration into a spirit of dialogue and collaboration with the organisations representing the workers the country relies on to deliver essential services, then that's surely a silver lining.

But all is not as it seems. Tory leopards do not change their spots, even in a pandemic. This DfT is part of the same Tory administration bent on forcing through new laws to restrict transport workers' strikes... the same Tory party under whose previous spells in government our railways were privatised, and, more recently, the drive towards de-staffing and “Driver Only Operation” has accelerated in earnest. This is the same Department for Transport which recently intervened to prevent the a settlement to the South Western Railway dispute that would have retained some role for the guard.

What this statement represents, then, is a blank cheque for collaboration with the bosses and their state at the very moment when workers should be demanding control, and refusing to let the architects and partisans of inequality and exploitation call the shots. We do need dialogue and consultation with our employers and the state; that must take place on as open and transparent a basis as circumstances allow, with the maximum degree of democratic scrutiny and control allowed by the pace needed to respond to changing events.

A collective, state-led, social response to the crisis is necessary to confront it. Clearly, that requires workers in the services integral to that to play our part. A working-class desire for everyone to pull together comes from a good place, usually informed by some elementary spirit of social solidarity. But that should not involve writing blank cheques for the bosses, with whose interests our own remain irreconcilably opposed.

Unions should be issuing our own statements, reiterating our demands for improved working conditions, and highlighting the fundamental structural reality of capitalism that this crisis reveals: that it is our labour that makes society function.

As Eugene Debs, the railway worker and socialist leader, put it: “We can run the mills without them, but they can't run them without us.” Or, as a picket line placard during the Uprising of the 20,000, a strike of migrant garment workers in America in 1909, proclaimed: “Our employers have wealth, but we have the power of reproduction.”

The publication of the statement also points to a democratic deficit within unions. At least within RMT, the largest industry-specific union in the transport sector, the statement's content, nor the decision to co-sign it, were not presented to any level of union democracy. Unity House, RMT's national office, is currently closed, but no attempt was made to seek comment on or ratification of the statement from the union's rank-and-file National Executive Committee, which could easily have been done remotely. One can speculate that the mechanism for signing unions up to the statement was similarly undemocratic in the other union signatories.

A crisis like this will require sacrifice. It will require emergency measures. It will require all of us who are able to make extraordinary efforts to help society through. What it does not require is the suspension of democracy in our movement, nor the suspension of our basic understanding that bosses and workers have opposing interests.

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Industrial news in brief: London Underground, Royal Mail, civil service

Published on: Wed, 18/03/2020 - 07:42
Author

Ollie Moore, John Moloney

Tube drivers vote for strikes, Tube workers make C-19 demands

London Underground drivers in the ASLEF union have voted by a 95.2% majority for strikes to win an improved settlement on pay and conditions, on a 74.5% turnout.

Although ASLEF is a minority union on the Tube overall, it represents a slight majority of drivers. The result is significant, and smashes the arbitrary thresholds of the Tories’ anti-union laws.

ASLEF’s pay claim overlaps substantially with other unions’ claims, including in its demand for a 32-hour, four-day week. It also includes a sectional claim for a driver-specific

Covid-19: our emergency plan

Published on: Sun, 15/03/2020 - 15:46

With the government coming under increasing criticism for its slapdash approach to the Covid-19 outbreak, our safety depends on us putting forward our own emergency plan to protect our and our passengers' health.

As the situation develops, necessary measures may change, but right now, we demand that our employers (and our ultimate employer, the Mayor of London), do the following without delay:

  • increase cleaning standards to the level necessary to minimise risk
  • take control of all TfL operations, including cancelling private contracts and bringing services, especially cleaning, in-house
  • guarantee that all transport staff, whether directly or indirectly employed, can stay off work if following government guidance, with no threat of disciplinary action or loss of pay
  • take serious measures to reduce unnecessary social contact: likely to include: reducing the service; suspending Night Tube; shutting multi-use touchscreen devices such as ticket machines (and therefore allowing people to travel without tickets); congestion control; allowing staff to work from home where possible
  • demand the restoration of the government grant to TfL, plus emergency funding to deal with the crisis and associated loss of income
  • establish a monitoring committee, including representatives of passenger groups and trade unions, to sit in permanent session during this crisis to scrutinise information and recommend necessary actions.

Of these, the last is particularly important, as it allows us to keep up with a rapidly-changing situation and to assert the right of working people - workers and passengers - to scrutinise and drive the policies that directly affect us.

We want our unions to put these demands to the employers - and ultimately, the Mayor. But this is an issue for everyone, so we can build support for it among the travelling public, and the wider labour movement.

With the Labour Party having suspended all meetings, there is a danger of the Mayor keeping himself a safe distance from accountability to the movement. So it would be particularly useful to ask Labour Party members and postholders to endorse these demands, to increase pressure on the Mayor to act.

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