Rail unions

Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers

What kind of union do we need? There are strengths and weaknesses in our current union set-up. Union officials will often have you believe that things can only be done the way they are done, because ... well, because they have always been done that way.

We do not agree. We have several criticisms of the existing rail unions, so it is only fair that we set out in more positive terms what our ideal union might look like. Let's call it the Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers (FURT).

Industrial news in brief

Author

Ollie Moore, Jay Dawkey, Cath Fletcher and David Pendletone

UCU ballot opens

University staff belonging to UCU are being balloted for strike action this autumn over pay equality, job security, workload and pay deflation.

Working conditions in higher education have been deteriorating. The gender pay gap is over 15%; over 100,000 staff across the sector are on fixed-term contracts; academic staff work over 50 hours in a typical week; and in the past ten years pay has declined by 20% in real terms.

Rail workers strike again against DOO

Guards on South Western Railway are striking again from 30 August – 2 September, as their fight against the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO) goes on.

Company figures expected that 40% of services would be cancelled on Friday 30 August and Monday 2 September, with up to 50% of services cancelled at the weekend. Union activists believe these figures could be conservative.

Industrial news in brief

Author

Sacha Ismail and Ollie Moore

Tube union RMT suspended strikes planned by drivers on London Underground’s Central and Victoria Lines on 3-4 September, after bosses made a number of concessions.

The issues at the heart of the dispute include authoritarian management culture on both lines, and driver numbers on the Central Line particularly.

The union remains in dispute and activists say strikes should be reinstated if management renege on agreements.

Plans for TUC congress

Stay on guard in SWR dispute!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Mon, 02/09/2019 - 12:49

Congratulations to RMT members on South Western Railway who have taken strike action again this weekend to defend the role of the guard.

At the start of 2019 it looked like strike action was reaping rewards when South Western Railway said that they would guarantee a second safety critical person on each train. RMT suspended strike action to allow talks to progress. But without the pressure of strikes, progress stalled; after a few months, the guards were back on strike.

We are hearing concerning reports from this weekend's picket lines. Apparently last week SWR sent a letter to RMT general secretary Mick Cash, which said that platform staff and guards will have no role in the dispatch process. Off the Rails hasn't seen the letter. We are not sure when this change is intended to take effect.

But, in essence, such a letter is a declaration that SWR intends to introduce driver only operation. If the second safety critical person plays no role in dispatch, then they are a nice-to-have. The train can still run without them. Their jobs will be vulnerable in future. Any strike action they take in future will have limited effect if the driver can run trains without them.

SWR's position is also a threat to platform dispatch staff's jobs. It has often been forgotten that the government's drive for DOO has seen platform staff's jobs disappear - often without much of a fight.

For example, when new Thameslink trains were introduced last year, the route already operated without guard. The main consequence was that platform dispatch staff were no longer required.

RMT must be clear about what it is fighting for. Is RMT aiming for a second safety critical person on board? Is that enough? What will that second person's duties involve? Will RMT hold firm and fight for the guard to be crucial in dispatch? Will RMT take a similar stance to defend the role of platform staff, and will Aslef on SWR rouse themselves sufficiently to get into the fight?

Trade Unions

Merseyrail strikes off, but SWR strikes go ahead

Submitted by Off The Rails on Thu, 29/08/2019 - 22:02

Guards on South Western Railway are striking again from 30 August – 2 September, as their fight against the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO) goes on. Company figures expected that 40% of services would be cancelled on Friday 30 August and Monday 2 September, with up to 50% of services cancelled at the weekend. Union activists believe these figures could be conservative.

As guards prepared for the strike, the news that SWR's parent company First had received £32 million from the government, in compensation for the impact of anti-DOO strikes. This means that taxpayers have subsidised a private company to minimise the impact of industrial action, significantly weighting the scales against workers.

On Merseyrail, RMT has suspended strikes due for 24 August, 3 September, and 5 September, after bosses made a revised offer. The new proposal does represent progress, most significantly in moving away from Merseyrail's previous position of retaining guards' jobs at the expenses of cuts in other areas, including cleaners' jobs. But questions remain over the detail of the deal, and whether guards will retain control of opening and closing doors. We've been here before on other companies, namely South Western and Northern, when a deal touted as providing a “guard guarantee” was reached, leading to the suspension of strikes, only to find that, freed from the pressure of industrial action, bosses' interpretation of the deal turned out to be little more than a soft form of DOO, leading to strikes being reinstated.

Merseyrail is the company where strikes have been strongest, bolstered by near unanimous support from Aslef driver members refusing to cross RMT picket lines. Those strikes were demobilised for months while dodgy deals, trading cleaners' jobs for guards' jobs, were brought back to the RMT NEC. Now, having finally made the decision, under the pressure of Merseyrail workers' mass meetings, to reinstate action, suspending strikes merely to “continue talks” about a new deal is a significant risk.

If the details of the new proposal are not ironed out to workers' satisfaction – i.e., a firm commitment to retain safety-critical guards' jobs, with control of the doors – the further strikes planned for 30 September, 2 October, and 4 October must go ahead.

Industrial news in brief

Author

Ollie Moore

Harland and Wolff

A hundred and thirty workers at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast face the loss of their jobs, after the employer went into administration. Workers have occupied the shipyard, demanding it be taken into public ownership. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell visited workers there on Monday 5 August. The Unite union has argued the yard’s productive capacity could be used to manufacture renewable energy infrastructure.

EMT out again on 17 August

EMT strikes continue

Submitted by Off The Rails on Fri, 02/08/2019 - 15:47

Striking guards at East Midlands Trains, soon to be East Midlands Railway, will be striking for a 3rd successive Saturday tomorrow. The past two actions have been well supported; EMT can only operate a much reduced service by drafting in its own and other companies’ managers to operate the train doors and perform platform duties.

The dispute is over EMT’s unilateral imposition of a 25% pay cut for guards in their first year, a failure on their part to fix the quota of ‘5 day’ guards at each depot and implement progression to ‘4 day’ link arrangements. There is also an issue with “Pink days”, extra days that have to be worked to make up a shortfall in rostered hours.

As Stagecoach/EMT will be handing over the franchise on 18 August there doesn’t seem to be any desire from them to end the dispute. Before the first strike they said they couldn’t attend last minute talks because there was nobody available on the management side. That position seems to have hardened after they withdrew the role of full time convenor yesterday. This could be a case of the old HR director EMT who becomes the new HR director EMR trying to firm up their position in the new company.

In any case we should add the reinstatement of the convenor role to our list of demands to settle the dispute and to welcome the new owners on 18 August we have announced another strike the day before.

Trade Unions

RMT halts ballot

Author

Ollie Moore

Tube union RMT has halted a ballot of around 2,000 workers on London Underground, mainly in engineering grades.

The workers were being balloted for strikes to stop job cuts proposed as part of Transport for London’s “Transformation” scheme. The scheme also includes a proposal to outsource a section of waste disposal staff currently employed directly by London Underground.

The ballot had been due for return on 16 July. The union says it plans to rerun the ballot with an expanded electorate, as it believes the cuts may be more extensive than first thought.

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