Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 23 October, 2019 - 7:41 Author: Charlie George and Tom Saff

USDAW, the shopworkers union, is facing a financial shortfall due to large numbers of its members being made redundant.

This is particularly felt at Tesco, which is the largest employer for the union’s members, but also where the union has refused to put up any resistance to the loss of around 9,000 jobs this last year.

Instead of launching a massive recruitment campaign or fighting back against the bosses, the union is instead considering getting rid of the part-time rate for new members, at its next annual conference, presumably a prelude to getting rid of it all together.

This would double the cost of union membership for many shop workers on low-hours contracts, and place union membership out of their budget. Many only work 6 hours a week.

To cover this shortfall, paid union organisers should take a pay cut to be on a worker’s wage, and USDAW should be recruiting new members on a militant, socialist platform.

Merseyrail: two-tier danger

RMT is announcing a “major breakthrough” on Merseyrail, after negotiations produced a new offer including a method of train dispatch which retains control of the doors for the guard, in line with RMT policy.

The union says the “fine detail” still needs working out, but the fact that it has suspended the strikes it planned for every Saturday through November and December is a pretty conclusive signal that the RMT Executive believes the dispute is now reaching its endgame.

Make no mistake: defeating the company’s attempts to impose DOO will be a huge achievement on its own terms, and is something that would not have been achieved without the solid industrial action workers have taken, backed up by solidarity from Aslef drivers.

Merseyrail workers should be congratulated for this exceptional resolve, and other workers can take inspiration from yet another reminder that direct action really does get the goods.

But before we pop the champagne, we need to examine any strings that might be attached. Previous deals have included completely unacceptable strings, such as offsetting the cost of retaining guards’ jobs by cutting cleaners’ jobs.

These offers should never have made it out of the talks; the fact that the RMT Executive spent any time considering offers that were an affront to the basic principles of industrial unionism was frankly a waste of time that slowed momentum.

Those proposals are now gone, but more recent proposed settlements, including the most recent, included a plan to put new starters on worse terms and conditions — longer hours for less pay — than existing guards. With negotiations on the “fine detail” of the offer ongoing, RMT reps will have to push to get those strings removed. But without the additional pressure and leverage of looming strikes, they only have persuasive words to rely on. It will now be extremely hard to reinstate action, having called, and then suspended, strikes twice in the last month alone.

It’s a difficult argument to ask existing workers to make sacrifices, by losing pay on strike days, for workers who aren’t even on the job yet, but the alternative — accepting a deal that screws over future staff to protect the conditions of current ones — risks undermining union organisation on the job.

If a two-tier deal is accepted, you can guarantee that mischief-making managers will be pouring poison in the ear of new guards from day one: “Thinking of joining the RMT? You know they accepted a deal that means you’re working longer hours and earning less money?”

Ultimately the decision on where to go next has to be led from the shopfloor, on the basis of whether workers feel confident to fight on. But if the bosses do insist on strings, then a discussion must be had about extending the exceptional resolve workers have shown so far to fight for those strings to be cut.

Oh, and one more thing. We couldn’t help but notice that in the RMT press release, the General Secretary thanks the regional organiser by name.

Very unusual. You’d think there was an election on.

Tube cleaners prepare ballot

RMT cleaners on London Underground are balloting for strike action from Monday 28 October.

RMT members across the London Transport Region will be mobilising to get the highest possible turnout and a yes vote for strike action.

The cleaners have waged a long campaign to get the same travel pass benefits as directly employed workers, company sick pay, improved holiday and pension entitlement and a reversal of the job cuts that have left some stations with just one cleaner per shift.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, of course, has the power to bring the cleaners in house, putting them on the same conditions as London Underground workers. Despite suggesting in various speeches that he will consider some of these issues, he has failed to do anything about it.

RMT plan to continue the pressure on the Mayor right thought this period and into his upcoming election campaign.

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