Ever since RMT announced its positive-sounding deals with various Train Operating Companies (TOCs), Off The Rails has argued that it is essential that the union keep members informed of what is going on in talks. We have also reported the frustration of members in the various companies involved that they are not getting reports from talks.
Arriva Rail North (ARN) guards are telling us that the silence is deafening. From Barrow to Newcastle, and all points in between, guards are getting increasingly disappointed that the union, having taken such a celebratory attitude to the deal, has been so passive since.
As guards have made their demands for updates heard, the union has finally felt the need to issue an update. But it is so devoid of content that we wonder why union head office bothered. Between the waffle and jargon, we are told nothing more substantial than that "significant progress is being made around operation modes and that these are now being explored in further detail." The circular even acknowledges that "Arriva Rail North members are anxious for updates" but refuses to give these updates, hiding behind "the sensitivity of these talks". No-one is asking for every dot and comma, every off-hand comment or every tiny detail, but - especially having taken fifty-odd days of strike action - guards deserve more than this vagueness.
The circular is a justification of the union keeping members in the dark, a classic example of "trust us - you don't need to know anything". But rank-and-file workers do need to know what's going on: because we want to be able to guide our negotiators, because we want to be able to judge the outcome of talks from a position of knowledge. If the talks fail and we have to strike again, then the action will be more solid and effective if members have been kept informed and involved all along rather than being treated as a stage army.