RMT has announced it plans to move to a national dispute "footing" with Network Rail, after thousands of potential job cuts were announced, as part of cutbacks that involve halving the frequency of safety-critical maintenance work.
The move towards a dispute, and a ballot for industrial action, must be accelerated. Announcing that the union is on a dispute "footing" is a start, but that won't be enough to force Network Rail and the government to back down. That will require industrial action. We must waste no time in preparing for that.
We also need some honest accounting about how we got here. The Tories and Network Rail bosses would undoubtedly have attempted to use the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic as a pretext for cuts in any case, but their job has been made easier by the fact that the union surrendered a "no compulsory redundancies" guarantee in the 2019 pay settlement. That guarantee expired at the start of 2021 and, surprise surprise, the bosses now plan job cuts.
We can't reverse the past, but we can learn for the future. We have to fight proposed cuts tooth and nail, and never again should we find ourselves in a position where our union recommends acceptance that gives away terms and conditions.
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