Off The Rails Spring 2006

Shorter Working Week: Who Pays the Price?

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 10:07

Rail workers continue to fight for shorter working hours. All of us should by now be on a (maximum) 35-hour week - then push forward to a 4-day, 32-hour week.

We need shorter working hours so that we can have a decent life outside work. But the employers want to keep on making profits out of us, so they resist our demands, or they insist that if we work for less time, then we either produce more or get paid less.

So this is not just an issue of whether we get shorter hours, but of who pays the price.

The bosses should pay. They can afford it: they have plenty of cash for their own over

Death On The Tracks

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 10:04

A contractor has gone to jail for killing four track workers at Tebay in February 2004 through deliberate tampering to save money. But the root causes of the tragedy are still in place.

Mark Connolly, boss of MAC Machinery Services, got 9 years. He had disconnected the brakes on two wagons because the hydraulic systems were knackered and he would not spend the money to fix them. He tried to cover his tracks by filling cables with ball bearings to seem like brake fluid.

Roy Kenney, who got 2 years, operated a crane he was not qualified to, and jammed wooden chocks under the wagons' wheels.

Network Rail: One Size Fits All?

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 10:01

The present terms and conditions of the engineering grades under Network Rail are going to be up for grabs unless the leadership of our union starts to organise and publicise the best and worst of them.

Most union members do not know how to get information and find out what conditions are worth defending and where we need to fight to improve them or level them up. Why should a worker have to give up a better rate of pay while at the same time seeing the fat cats' pay go through the roof?

Management are not going to look out for our interests and will seek to drive down our Terms and

Around the Railway

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 09:51
  • GNER
  • Central Trains
  • South EastTrains
  • Updates
  • GNER

    GNER wants to put in barriers at Kings Cross and other stations on the East Coast route, massively cutting commission earned by on-board ticket-checking staff. Ticket Examiners could lose up to a third of their income, and the gap between lower-paid grades and drivers will keep growing.

    The company refused to make any compensatory rise in basic pay. Nor are they offering new technology money for the introduction of ticket machines to replace excess books, even though other employers have done (eg. Avantix machines on Virgin).

    This comes

Fighting the Fascists

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 09:50

The BNP has launched a trade union. It doesn't have much more than a paper existence, and what paper there is doesn't mention the BNP, but rail workers will be familiar with some involved. Remember Jay Lee, expelled from ASLEF? Or Pat Harrington, kicked out of RMT? He is now president of ‘Solidarity’, this would-be union "for patriotic and nationalist British workers".

The BNP needs a new angle on union work to maintain the turn to working-class politics it took in 2000. Its policy had been to get members to join unions and seek confrontation, leading to illegal expulsion in the hope of

Marxism at Work: Can We Manage Without Managers?

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 00:02

We all know that there is a lot of deadwood in the management grades on the railway. When we strike, we can shut - or at least disrupt - the train service. If managers went on strike, no-one would notice for months!

Much, maybe most, of what they do is not about running the railway. Rather, it is about keeping us in line. They hassle us about petty uniform rules, promote the employer's latest glossy-but-useless campaign, use MFA/Attendance procedures to bully people into coming to work when you are sick.

When we go on strike, managers go into full flow - organising scabbing, threatening

Trade Union Freedom Bill

Published on: Wed, 10/05/2006 - 00:00

Whenever we start to stand up for ourselves, we come up against the anti-union laws. It’s not just the outrageous court rulings - such the injunctions awarded to EWS or Midland Mainline in the last couple of years - it is also the everyday shackles that these laws keep around us.

We now have our best chance in years to start dismantling these laws. Support is growing for a Trade Union freedom Bill, which would restore some of our rights - stopping strikes being banned from trivial ballot irregularities, allowing us to take action alongside workmates who work for a different employer because

Rail unions & politics

Published on: Tue, 09/05/2006 - 23:58

RMT held a conference on working-class representation in January. Since its expulsion from Labour, RMT has been searching for a way to use its political clout in the best interest of its members. Requests have come in to finance some of the most unlikely candidates, including nationalist and reactionary parties and individuals.

RMT still has a Parliamentary group of Labour MPs, and is affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee (it's high time the other rail unions joined too).

The Blairites have left their rank and file feeling let down. We need to strike back. There is a lot of

Fingerprints please!

Published on: Tue, 09/05/2006 - 23:56

What is this - CSI: Railways?! Rail workers in many grades and locations are resisting employers’ moves to make us book on and off using fingerprints.

Amey set up a 'pilot' at the Port Talbot resignalling scheme, without consulting the workforce or the union, just getting the nod from a project manager.

Network Rail wants to use the pilot to spread this outrageous practice to all major project sites.

Metronet and TubeLines tried something similar. They backed down in the face of RMT objections, but you can bet that the scheme is on the shelf rather than in the bin.

It is no surprise that

Two Jags

Published on: Tue, 09/05/2006 - 23:07

Cor, bit embarrassing, that loans-for-lordships business. It seems it’s not cricket to give someone a title if they help you out of a tight spot. It was OK for the Tories and Liberals before us, so why not?

See, we don’t get enough dosh from trade unions any more - something about “attacking their members”, they reckon. As we know, unions are small, unrepresentative, elitist, special interest groups, so the obvious alternative is the filthy rich, who, by contrast, are ... um ... never mind.

I came up with a cracking argument. Because political parties can’t be trusted not to have thoroughly

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