Industrial News: ROUND-UP

Submitted by Anon on 18 August, 2003 - 6:35

  • Post: Step up the fight on London pay
  • ASLEF: Rix didn't organise
  • Devon Stagecoach dispute
  • Debate on RMT conference: Not fair to blame Crow
  • Debate on RMT conference: RMT policy is not duplicitous

Post: Step up the fight on London pay

By a London postal worker

At a meeting of London reps at the beginning of August, many expressed impatience and anger over the London Weighting (LW) campaign. There was talk of using unofficial action to advance the campaign, but the almost unanimous decision of the meeting was to seek support from the Postal Executive, which has now resulted in the joint ballot with the national basic pay claim.

It is a very good thing for all CWU members that the two campaigns are to be linked, since London going it alone could have led to irrevocable splits in the union. The way that many activists outside London saw it, a successful campaign concentrated solely on LW would mean that Londoners would be less concerned about basic pay. Any moves towards regional pay would divide and ultimately weaken our union.

Nevertheless, the restlessness of the London reps at the incredibly slow-paced LW campaign is entirely understandable. Especially when other public sector workers are making progress on LW, and we are standing still. And postalworkers-inside and outside of London-reserve the right to organise unofficial action if we feel that the union leadership are not willing or capable of leading our pay struggle. While some bureaucrats will cower before the bosses' anti-union laws, we will not.

ASLEF: Rix didn't organise

An ASLEF member comments on Mick "Awkward Squad" Rix losing the union's General Secretary position to right-winger Shaun Brady

When Rix won last time it was as big a surprise as him losing this time was.

Last time Rix organised. This time he didn't organise and the right wing did. They had a website that they used.

Other factors contributed to Rix's defeat. He wanted to end rest day working. The rank and file were pissed off because they wouldn't be able to work rest days when they wanted to earn some extra cash.

There was a partial backlash against union support for left-wing causes like Cuban solidarity and opposition to war in Iraq. ASLEF is a craft union. They think the union should look after drivers, not be interested in politics. They can't see that you can do both. In the RMT where everyone does different jobs for different companies politics can be the common ground that unites everyone.

About the BNP member that was kicked out of the union-some people couldn't understand why that was done.

Also Rix was seen as a bit of a dictator.

The turnout was less than 50%. The vote was 4,475 to 3,299. Rix had 80+ branches backing him and Brady had only 11, but some of those branches for Rix were a matter of a hastily called unrepresentative meeting.

I don't know what the new guy is like. The claims that he is sexist he denies. He is in post for five years.

It might give us an indication of what to expect to know that Lew Adams said he thought the membership would be pleased to see this vote. If Lew Adams has given Brady the thumbs up, he can't be very good.

Devon Stagecoach dispute

700 members of the RMT union who drive Stagecoach buses in south and east Devon are voting on whether to accept the employer's latest offer in their pay dispute. The company is understood to have dropped demands that the drivers get a pay rise only if they agree to have unpaid breaks. The drivers were looking for a 57p per hour pay rise to £6.50 an hour; Stagecoach are offering £6.40.

The drivers have held nine days' solid strike action and only suspended a further scheduled four days' of strike action to consider the latest offer. RMT HQ is recommending acceptance, but Stagecoach has made threatening noises that they might make more than the usual seasonal redundancies at the end of the summer: industrial peace is not yet restored.

Debate on RMT conference: Not fair to blame Crow

I read Colin Foster's account of the RMT conference with interest (Solidarity 3/34). Some points about that.

The debate about Mick Cash and the Labour Party National Executive vote on the war [where Cash backed a pro-Government motion] was heated. Conference made it clear to Mick Cash that he had done wrong and that they held him responsible.

The fact that Bob Crow spoke in favour of Mick Cash should not be held against him. It must have stuck in his throat to have to speak up for Mick, but as General Secretary, that was his duty, and conference knew that. It was the fault of conference floor that the resolution on this issue was defeated. Don't blame Bob Crow (who had a great conference) for decision made on the floor.

RMT policy and Bob Crow went totally against the war. Bob's credentials should not be at question.

The vote on the Welsh Nationalists was not a complete disaster as the General Council has to approve any payments. They are not likely to approve.

Bob did not "push through" a decision to reduce affiliation to 5,000. The conference floor was calling for total disaffiliation. The feeling on the floor was that 5,000 did not go far enough. I was at the conference and I can tell you that Bob Crow made a very good account of himself.

Bob isn't perfect, none of us are. He is uncorruptible, honest in his beliefs and a great asset to the RMT. If we do not give people like him support they will go the same way as Mick Rix. Criticism is fine but please try to read the mood of conference before slagging off people.

Rick Grogan, RMT London Underground

RMT policy is not duplicitous

I have to take issue with one point in Colin Foster's assessment of the RMT Conference's decision about the union's political fund.

The article welcomes the RMT's main decision-to allow support for other candidates whilst maintaining affiliation to the Labour Party. So it seems strange for the author to then describe this as an attempt to provoke disaffiliation, face both ways and manipulate the union.

First, we should clear up the facts about the union's Rule Book. Yes, the phrase "RMT is affiliated to the Labour Party" has been added to the Rules for the first time. But the union already had several rules governing its relationship with Labour, so it was undisputed that the union was indeed affiliated to Labour by rule, not just by policy.

The old rules were deleted, and replaced with a simple statement of affiliation. We should be glad to see the back of them-especially the one that said that the union's sponsored MPs had to obey the Labour Party's whip!

I think that continued affiliation to Labour, together with supporting other socialist, working-class candidates, is the right policy for the unions at the moment. It is not the neatest policy ever, but that is because the political situation facing the unions right now is not neat. The policy is not duplicitous or manipulative.

There are some important concerns and criticisms about other aspects of the RMT's decisions. Colin Foster was right to criticise Bob Crow for his defence of Mick Cash, who had voted in support of the Iraqi war on the Labour NEC. And the reduction in the affiliation to the Labour Party sees the union voluntarily give up most of its voting power for the sake of a gesture of 'moving away' from Labour without actually going the whole hog.

Union activists will have to organise to ensure that the union's future affiliation to, say, the Scottish Socialist Party, is conducted democratically, beginning with a members' referendum on affiliation. And to stop the vote for 'closer links' with the likes of Plaid Cymru turning into any kind of political endorsement.

While Bob Crow enjoys his honeymoon period in the RMT, it is important that we speak out with criticism where criticism is due. But let's not get distracted by flimsy or speculative criticisms which will only put union activists' backs up.

Janine Booth, RMT London Underground

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