As reported in the last edition of Off The Rails guards at EMT Connect went on strike over Sunday working on the 7th and 14th of June.
They were due to go on strike on the following Saturday too but this was called off two days before it was due for talks with management. It wasn’t that EMT bosses had anything new to offer or that the previous strikes had been badly supported, in fact the picket lines at Nottingham were the biggest in years. Reps were concerned that if they didn’t go to talks management would achieve a propaganda victory as they would claim that they were the only one serious about settling the dispute because RMT refused to talk.
Now, while this is a danger, it has to be acknowledged that this is a tactic that management could use at any time. If we don’t try to preserve the momentum of the dispute and present ourselves as being in control of when we do and don’t strike then management can turn us on and off like a tap. We need a cultural change so that members know that when strikes are called they will happen unless management make an offer worth considering and we should make a point of including this in any strike bulletins we put out.
In this instance the offer of talks was worthless as the agenda consisted of management asking the reps to draw up a proposal on what would be acceptable to their members to settle the dispute. When the reps presented this to management, they had the distinct impression that they hadn’t even read it! It was rejected and in turn management have recently produced a new set of proposals which are as bad as their previous ones.
In addition all the unions on EMT are balloting over pay. TSSA has already rejected the deal and RMT’s result will be known soon. Drivers are not being balloted as they have already accepted 4% over 8 months while everybody else is being offered 4% over 12 months and quite rightly they want to know why they aren’t getting the same treatment as the drivers. It also has to be said that even according to the under-estimated official inflation figure of 5% this pay deal is actually a pay cut.
EMT Connect drivers balloted over the sacking of one of their number for having a SPAD. This was supposed to be the culmination of a series of actions in his defence but unfortunately the ballot was lost. This was partly because people remembered that this sacked driver had crossed picket lines in the past, but the adage, “two wrongs don’t make a right” applies in this instance. The one small positive to come out of this was that although this driver was an ASLEF member, RMT balloted too. This is a much better way to deal with inter-union rivalry rather than crossing each others picket lines.
The other issue on EMT is whether we should accept a new bargaining machinery. The reps on the Connect side think this is the wrong time to change, what with the imminent start of harmonisation talks. As they have rightly pointed out we should wait until harmonisation is sorted out because it may be that with a new bargaining machinery will come new reps who have no knowledge of the terms and conditions they are attempting to harmonise.