Off The Rails Summer 2007

Defend Your Pension

The Railway Pensions Committee has produced its first report, having scrutinised submissions from trade unions, employers and government. In general, it is a summation of and commentary on those submissions with additional sections covering the historical and legal background.

The unions made three main demands:
1. cap employee contributions at 10.56%;
2. keep benefits at least at their current level;
3. streamline the scheme into three active sections.

Shop Stewards' Network

Early July will see a conference to found a National Shop Stewards’ Network. Rank-and-file organisation like this is essential to making our unions more responsive to workers’ needs.

This initiative came from a conference hosted by RMT which discussed the crisis in working-class political representation.

It could be a major step forward in organising the rank and file to revitalise our unions the better to fight the employers and their incessant attacks.

Staff Our Stations!

Across the country, companies are steadily de-staffing our stations - and it is high time that the unions broke their silence and called a halt to it.

Many rural and small stations are now unstaffed, leaving no-one to sell tickets, help passengers, pass on service info or request special stop orders when previous trains are cancelled.

Employers replace human beings with central announcements and self-service machines; and replace directly-employed station staff with low-waged agency workers either on site or in call centres.

Network Rail Bonus Outrage

Network Rail is withholding bonuses from two groups of workers in an action of anti-union spite and scapegoating. As the company - supposedly 'not-for-profit' - reported record profits, NWR refused maintenance workers in the Grayrigg area their £400 bonus and docked £300 from Scottish signallers and supervisors who took strike action earlier this year.

Victory on Metronet

In April, RMT called off strike action on Metronet after management capitulated. The union had demanded the Infraco drop its plan to transfer the employment of 49 Duty Depot Managers to Bombardier, one of its component companies. Metronet agreed not to go ahead with the transfer.

The sweeteners that Metronet used to try to lure RMT into accepting the DDMs' transfer remain part of this new deal, so we may now see lifts & escalators contracts brought back in-house, and cleaning services too - if Metronet keeps its promises.

Union Democracy

Trade unions are democratic bodies - unlike, say, employers! All have rule books which, though they could be improved, allow members to have a vote in electing their representatives and deciding policy. But not only do we need to improve union democracy, we must defend it against abuse. Examples:

Making Our Unions Fit To Fight

Off The Rails supporters met on May 5th in Birmingham. Under the title “Making our unions fit to fight”, the meeting brought together activists from various disputes to share experiences and discuss how we could make the unions more effective and membership-led.

First up was a report from the Metronet victory, highlighting the advantage in having an elected strike committee to organise publicity and solidarity and counter pressure from union HQ to accept poor deals.

John McDonnell ... and beyond

John McDonnell’s bid for the Labour Party leadership ended in May when he didn’t secure enough nominations from Labour MPs. After months of campaigning amongst grass roots Labour supporters and trade unionists, his bid hit the stops of others' moral cowardice and the power of patronage.


What do you get for working faster and harder than you need to? The sack - if you're on the GrantRail/TrackWork contract with TubeLines, that is.

They were working to a 7½ year contract, but it was subject to annual review, and was completed in 3½ years. So, in the brave new world of Public-Private Partnerships and sub-contracting, up to 70 workers may get not a bonus or a Thanks To You, but a P45.

Marxism at Work: Fat Cats and Poverty Pay

Recently, Network Rail chief executive John Armitt received a total bonus package of more than £200,000; his deputy, Iain Coucher, more than £179,000; the other two executive directors £133,937. And that's just the bonuses! Last year, Network Rail's four most senior executives shared £1.1m in bonuses. Armitt got over £350,000, on top of his £500,000 salary. NR, a so-called 'not-for-profit' company, has just reported a pre-tax profit of £1billion.

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