Off The Rails Autumn 2007

Refusing To Work On Safety Grounds

Published on: Thu, 15/11/2007 - 20:53

Rail workers know that our employers will risk life and limb (ours, not theirs!) to keep the trains running and the cash coming in. We can not trust them to protect us at work - we have to rely on ourselves.

In the first century of the railway industry, unsafe conditions killed and injured workers at an alarming rate, and campaigns for higher safety standards drove the growth of railway trade unionism. Today, in the century of Tebay and Hatfield, this fight is as crucial as ever.

In the 1980s and 90s, Tory governments took away many of our trade union rights, and ten years of New Labour has


Published on: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 20:44

EWS is being taken over by the German state owned operator DB. At a recent meeting Transnet (the German rail union) briefed ASLEF on the implications for EWS. As Tosh McDonald (ASLEF vice president) reports, any existing management that doesn’t fit in with how Railion (DB’s railfreight group) run things is quickly shown the door. This has then been followed by workforce cuts and reductions in locations.

He complains that the staff that remain after ‘restructuring’ whilst being mainly drivers are expected to increase productivity by having an increased number of duties. This is rich coming

Central Trains

Published on: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 20:43

A month before the end of the franchise, ASLEF is balloting its members on Central Trains for industrial action.

This is the first industrial action ballot held by ASLEF within the life of the Central Trains franchise. Previously union members have shown their displeasure with management by not volunteering to work on particular Sundays (as Sundays are not part of the working week), known locally as B-B-Q days. On this occasion ASLEF has called a ballot so that it can sanction strike action hopefully on a day other than Sunday. The effectiveness of not working on Sunday is highly questionable

More ASLEF Action

Published on: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 20:42

86.9% of drivers at Midland Mainline have voted for strike action to force the company to enhance pension provision in line with previous pay improvements. ASLEF’s executive has named a series of one day strikes every Thursday for six weeks starting on 25 October.

ASLEF has also called strikes on Silverlink about pensionable pay, after 90.5% of members voted in favour of industrial action. Again, the Society has named six one-day strikes at weekly intervals, this time on Fridays starting on 26th November.

Off The Rails is pleased to see that these strikes will be held on working weekdays, as

A Workers' Voice In Politics

Published on: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 20:40

The working class needs a voice in politics. Labour used to go some way to being a workers’ party: it had workers in it, unions could vote on and make policy at Labour conference. That Labour has long since changed its priorities can be seen from its policies in government and who they have benefited: cuts and privatisation in the NHS, breaking up comprehensive education by letting business people and faith leaders run schools, taking away the right to retire at 60 and attacking the state pension, war in Iraq, keeping Thatcher’s anti-union laws - and, of course, keeping the railways in private

Labour Party Conference

Published on: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 20:37

Unions and local Labour Parties have voted to ban themselves from submitting motions on current political issues to Labour Party conference. All the formal powers that conference once held to determine party policy will be transferred to the leadership, which will only have to ‘consult’ with the National Policy Forum, itself a well-controlled and largely impermeable body. These proposals have finished off Labour Party conference as a serious political event. They are an attempt to finally destroy the Labour Party as a democratic political organisation based on the labour movement.

In recent

Campaign For A Fighting Democratic Union

Published on: Tue, 06/11/2007 - 16:45

A member of RMT’s LU Engineering branch explains why it has relaunched the CFDU (Campaign for a Fighting Democratic Union)

It’s said that if you are around long enough, you will see just about everything. Some-times things turn into their opposites and effects can even become causes. Marxists often refer to a process known as ‘dialectics’ where an unforeseen effect of capitalist production, the creation of an industrial working class, can become the gravedigger of the very system that gave birth to it.

Not all changes are so progressive. RMT leaders’ current position on the need to break

Postal Strike

Published on: Tue, 06/11/2007 - 16:42

As we write, the Communication Workers’ Union postworkers' dispute looks set to end with a deal that gives Royal Mail virtually everything they want. Only a rebellion from rank-and-file posties can stop this deal, or at least lay the ground to stop further retreats.

Posties knew this was an important and potentially long battle, as they faced off Royal Mail bosses set on giving a below-inflation pay offer while forcing through 'modernisation' plans that meant 40,000 job cuts – that is, one third of Royal Mail staff.

The dispute started in early July. With solid strike days, rolling action,

Marxism At Work: Inequality And Class

Published on: Tue, 06/11/2007 - 16:30

Between 50 and 60% cent of the population identify as ‘working class’. Despite the term ‘working class’ vanishing completely from the language of the Labour Party, the proportion claiming this now-unspoken identity has been fairly stable since the 1950s.

To be working class is to be at one pole of a pair. The other pole is the capitalist class. The picture is blurred by what Marx called “the constantly growing number of the middle classes, those who stand between the workman on the one hand and the capitalist and landlord on the other’. But the two main poles are clear. Most of us sell our

London Underground

Published on: Tue, 06/11/2007 - 16:27


Infrastructure consortium Metronet is in administration. Metronet workers held solid strike action, backed by other grades of Tube workers, and forced guarantees.

But the big issue is still the Public-Private Partnership. Workers need not just job guarantees but the reversal of PPP and the reintegration of a public Underground. The unions - in the first place, RMT - need to strike against PPP itself, confronting the anti-union laws that make ‘political’ action illegal.

Ticket Office Carnage

London Underground plans to close 39 ticket offices and slash the opening hours of

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