Off The Rails July 2005

Strikes: ideas to win, mistakes to avoid

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:45

Anti-social hours, poor safety, low pay, job cuts, victimisation, attacks on condtions ... Over and again, we have to fight, and when the talking fails, we have to strike.

Our strongest weapon is our power to withdraw our labour. The media often make out that ultra-militant union leaders force unwilling members to strike. But we know that often, the opposite is true. We have to put pressure on our leaders to organise action.

There have been several strikes in our industry over the last few years. All have been justified, but not all have gone well. Here, Off The Rails looks at how to

Updates & News

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:42
  • Steve Hedley: back at work
  • ASLEF wins on safety
  • The Tesco Tunnel
  • Network Rail goes private?

Back to Work

Steve Hedley is back working for Westinghouse having won his fight against victimisation (reported last October in Off The Rails).

Steve organised pickets of the work site, at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. He also helped other workers get unionised and oppose draconian new contracts.

It was grass-roots action and solidarity that won Steve his job back. Along with his determination, even when his own union's head office was suggesting he look for another job!

Union Wins on Safety


Rail Union Learning project

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:40

The Rail Union Learning project brings together representatives from RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and AMICUS. Unlike other union positions, the Learner Rep represents members from all the unions involved.

The Learner Rep has been part of the trade union movement for a few years now, but we get very little publicity outside of our own and TUC publications.

The initiative is sneered upon by some - including some on the left - because it is a government program. It is supposed to foster 'partnerships' between management and unions to get our workforce back into the education system.

It is full of faults -

Central Trains injustice

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:39

Imagine the scenario: you are at work and a passenger assaults you after you have tried to stop them abusing another passenger. On leaving the station, the assailant verbally informs booking office staff that he has been assaulted, then disappears never to be seen or heard from again. Some hours later you finish your duty and get back to your station.

Guess what happens next? If you came up with "the guard gets the sack", then you must have a management as unconcerned with justice and due process as ours at Central Trains.

On appeal, the guard was reinstated to a lower grade away from his

Level crossings kill again

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:37

Following the seven deaths at Ufton Nervet, the last issue of OTR looked in depth at the issue of level crossing safety.
Sad to say, we have to report that on 30th June, a teenager was killed, and his five friends injured, when a train dragged their car 100m along the track at Rawcliffe Bridge, near Goole.
As at Ufton Nervet, the local community had raised concerns about the crossing's safety before the accident. The crossing at Rawcliffe Bridge was manually operated by motorists, protected only by metal gates and a small set of lights.
Whatever the industry's bleating about 'costs', crossings

Tube bombs: unite against this outrage!

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:34

The bomb attacks on Thursday 7th July were despicable. 55 people died, and many more were injured.

This was an attack on us at work, and on our passengers going about their daily lives. The bombers killed innocent civilians, members of London's diverse population.

Heroes and Villains

Tube staff responded brilliantly: leading people to safety, comforting the injured, dealing with the crowds. We pulled together in solidarity - something these vicious bombers know nothing about.

Tube workers were heroes. We hope that this is remembered next time we strike, when we are usually cast as villains

Cleaners get unionised

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:29

Across the country, cleaners work in awful conditions. They need the union and the union needs them. On the Tube, RMT has been unionising cleaners. Here, one activist outlines what they have done.

What is the primary trade union principle? Workers of the world unite? An injury to one is an injury to all? The strong must help the weak?

Many unions have built structures on the 'principle' that by organising strong grades, they will defend all other grades.

But the rank and file rarely buy into that philosophy. They join unions for protection and to defend their workmates - the person next to

Wessex Trains: fighting job cuts

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 21:28

Staff on Wessex Trains are preparing to fight against compulsory redundancies.

About three years ago, the company reclassified some supervisory and clerical grades as 'managers' - and then had the cheek to say that RMT could no longer represent them as they had a single-union deal for managers with TSSA!

Now, Wessex is making 14 redundancies amongst these grades. Their 'consultation' consisted of phoning the TSSA full-timer, who dutifully agreed the list of names. The problem for management and their TSSA poodles is that one of the 14 - RMT member Suzanne Hughes - does not want to go.


Marxism at work: the pensions crisis

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 20:52

This autumn, the Pension Commission will make its recommendations. It was set up to find an extra £50b a year to keep up the current living standard for pensioners.

Between now and then, the trickle of news stories about the pensions crisis will become a torrent, with the line that we are not saving enough for our extended old age. Constant repetition of this will prepare us for the bad news that is sure to come out of the report.

The commission's head, former CBI chief Adair Turner, said: "The ultimate solution to the problem was bound to involve a mix of later retirement, higher taxes and

News & Views 1

Published on: Wed, 20/07/2005 - 20:50

Dear Off The Rails

It was great to see RMT members and supporters out on the streets during the Rail Against Privatisation (RAP) mobile demonstrations. Even better to hear Bob Crow at a rally following one such event in Nottingham calling for the formation of a workers' party.

Was this the signal for a welcome change of heart on the part of the General Secretary regarding the union's political direction? Or was it a purely verbal ploy to maintain his left-wing credentials knowing full well that the following speaker; a general election candidate for the Socialist Green Unity Coalition, was

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