The Annual General Meeting of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers union (RMT), which takes place from 23-28 June in Brighton, will discuss a variety of motions on the union’s political and industrial strategy.
In a welcome move, the union’s national executive recently agreed to organise eight meetings in cities around Britain for rank-and-file members to discuss the union’s industrial strategy and put forward their ideas for responses to the attacks on railworkers following the 2011 McNulty Report.
A motion to the AGM from the train crew conference to consider strikes if guards’ jobs are threatened is a step towards national strikes against the effects of the McNulty Report, which Workers’ Liberty members in RMT have been arguing for.
Two motions on casualisation suggest different approaches to the issue. One emphasises organising agency workers, while another would commit the union merely to calling on train operating companies to end agency contracts (with no explicit call to directly employ agency workers).
Our experiences in the “Justice for the 33” campaign on London Underground show that a clear demand to “sack the agency, not the workers” is essential to any campaign against casualisation.
A motion backed by the Socialist Party tacks its hollow “general strike” call onto a general motion about “preparing members for action to defend jobs, pensions, and conditions”.
Other motions include a call for the union to pursue minimum flat-rate increases in wage negotiations, which would help many lower-paid workers. A motion from Portsmouth branch proposes positive measures to limit the bureaucratisation of full-time reps and hold them to account more effectively.
Political motions include a call for a campaign “for the supersession of the capitalist system by a socialist order of society”, a formulation from the union’s constitution. Another motion asks for an alternative economic strategy, “committed to progressive politics”, in line with the People’s Charter Campaign. But both are broad statements of principle, rather than detailed, concrete proposals, and both lack an emphasis on the central role of working-class agency for social change.
A resolution on the Falklands/Malvinas may prove controversial.
The AGM will also debate the RMT’s relationship with the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, with one motion calling for the union to withdraw its blanket support and only back TUSC candidates on a case-by-case basis.
The AGM will also hear motions from the union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), Women’s, and Black and Ethnic Minority sections, on supporting LGBT asylum seekers and fighting transphobia, organising public speaking training for women members, and retirement rights for emigrants to non-EU countries respectively.
There will also be appeals against some decisions taken by the union executive in the previous year.
One will seek to overturn a decision not to support the Councillors Against Cuts network. The RMT leadership voted not to back CAC on the spurious grounds that the CAC statement includes opposition to rates increase (which RMT leaders said councillors should be free to make in order to fund wage rises for council workers). Now that the Local Government sector conference of Unison has overturned its leadership’s decision not to back CAC, it is to be hoped that RMT will follow suit.
There is also an appeal against the outcome of a complaint brought by RMT member Caroline Leneghan accusing Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley of domestic violence. Many feel the investigation, which found against Caroline, was not properly conducted.
Overturning the outcome would mean that the Executive would have to look at the issue again, and would send a strong signal that women trade unionists’ voices should be taken seriously.
Tube cleaners’ union rep Clara Osagiede faces the sack. Her bosses, multinational firm Initial, have dredged up accusations from over a year ago to victimise Clara. They took no further action after a hearing into the accusations in February 2012.
The RMT is organising a campaign to defend Clara. For more info, see here.