RMT decided not to call strikes on Northern Rail in a dispute over casualisation, after signing an agreement with management which offered some concessions on ongoing issues.
The company has agreed to changes or reviews on issues including concessionary travel and rostering systems. A communiqué from management to Northern Rail staff said the resolved items were “relatively minor in the scheme of things”.
The central issue in the dispute, however, was Northern Rail’s use of agency staff, through the Trainpeople and G4S agencies. Although Northern Rail has committed to not expanding the use of agency staff during the current franchise, they did not commit to taking on agency staff as direct employees when the current Trainpeople contract expires in July 2013. The union also agreed that Northern Rail may have to employ some agency staff on a shot-term basis, and that it would be involved in planning and consultation as and when this was necessary. Management’s statement boasts of how they successfully “resisted [union] demands” to employ the agency workers.
Workers voted by a 58% majority to strike over the issue, and while some activists felt that the narrow majority and the failure of other rail unions TSSA and ASLEF to join the fight made the strength of any potential strike doubtful, Off The Rails that this does not justify endorsing an inadequate agreement.
One RMT activist told Off The Rails: “Sometimes you have to be honest and say that you don’t have the strength to pull off a solid strike, but that doesn’t mean you have to positively endorse a particular agreement with management.
“We balloted to strike against the use of agency labour and for the direct employment of all agency workers, and instead we’ve signed up to a deal that accepts agency labour and says the union will help management plan when to use it.”
The RMT’s Executive agreed to endorse the deal with only one vote against.
G4S’s record of shame
G4S has grim record in many industries.
In 2010, G4S security guards working for the UK Border Agency killed Angolan refugee Jimmy Mubenga by forcing him into an unsafe position on his deportation flight. Following his death, the guards colluded with G4S senior management to write up and collate their accounts of the event.G4S is a company that only cares about profit. Its practises on its UKBA contracts led to innocent people dying.
Who’s to say it won’t cut corners on the railway too?