Rail unions

Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers

Published on: Thu, 03/07/2008 - 09:31

What kind of union do we need? There are strengths and weaknesses in our current union set-up. Union officials will often have you believe that things can only be done the way they are done, because ... well, because they have always been done that way.

We do not agree. We have several criticisms of the existing rail unions, so it is only fair that we set out in more positive terms what our ideal union might look like. Let's call it the Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers (FURT).

Some of the good things about this fantasy union could be put in place by changes in rules and ways of

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 16/10/2019 - 07:31
Author

Gerry Bates, Dom Sztyber, Darren Bedford and Ollie Moore

The ballot for general secretary of the civil service union PCS will open on 7 November and close on 12 December.

For the first time in 18 years, the sitting general secretary, Mark Serwotka, faces a challenge from the left.

Bev Laidlaw, the Independent Left candidate, got 17 branch nominations, topping the number of 15 required to get on the ballot paper.

Serwotka got 62 nominations. The candidate backed by the Socialist Party, Marion Lloyd, got 39.

The SP was a dominant force in the union, closely allied with Serwotka, until about a year and a half ago.

In the Assistant General Secretary

Northern: New Deal for Drivers Hits the Buffers

Published on: Wed, 09/10/2019 - 17:02

Rumours reach us that Northern's unpopular New Deal for Drivers (NDfD) is dead. We hope that's true. Time for the Northern drivers' Company Council to get into pay talks, reject the derisory 2.75% offer that the other unions look set to knock back and rejoin the collective bargaining process to help win a better offer via dispute. ASLEF can get better pay for its members the right way, by working with the other unions to win a better settlement. Now is the time to have the pay dispute that we should have followed through in 2014/15.

Once that's done, perhaps reps can pick through the wreckage of the NDfD, pick up the bits of it that were worth having and work with the membership on a harmonisation proposal that's based on levelling-up, without any of the employer's booby traps, loopholes or loose wording.

Harmonisation of terms and conditions and Sundays inside the working week are desirable things but we won't get them by attempting to push them through on the employer's terms. We need to unite behind our own proposals and take the fight to the company.

Trade Unions

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“Twenty additional colleagues”?

Published on: Wed, 09/10/2019 - 08:50
Author

Ollie Moore

London Underground’s response to the successful ballot for action on the East End of the District Line over workplace violence has been to announce “20 additional colleagues”.

Good news, you might think. An acknowledgement that lone working and understaffing are the fundamental problems. But alas, the reality is not so encouraging.

These “colleagues” aren’t additional tube staff, but staff drafted in from Transport for London’s (TfL) Surface Transport department – workers who deal with taxi enforcement and revenue issues on buses. They are not trained or licensed to work on tube stations. They

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Northern guards: put the action back on!

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 22:39

Word has it that Northern Rail management have come up with a spiffing new idea for undermining the role of guard, and seem to think that we may be daft enough not to see through it.

It goes like this. The train pulls in to the station. The driver opens the doors. The guards steps onto the platform. When the PTI is clear, the guard presses the buzzer to tell the driver that it is safe to close the doors. The driver closes the doors.

Of course, there is the small matter that the buzzer is not live while the doors are open. But in case they get a technical fix for that, the bigger question is: If the guard can press a buzzer to communicate with the driver, then why can't the guard press a button to close the doors?

The answer, of course, is that they can. So why would the company get the guard to press something to tell the driver to close the doors when they can just as easily have them press something to close the doors themselves? The only answer to that question is that their longer-term aim is to scrap the guard.

First, it will be the guard pressing a buzzer to tell the driver. Then it'll be in-cab CCTV meaning that no guard is needed. We can see where this is going, amd this plan is not acceptable.

We say 'Word is ...' because it has been hard to find out for certain what is going on. Discussions are taking place behind closed doors and above the heads even of our company council reps. RMT promised its guard members in July that it would give us an update by the end of September. That was frustrating enough, but it is now October and we still have no definite news.

If the union keeps on keeping us in the dark, it will find that our patience runs out. We have been fighting this dispute for a long time and we won't allow all the momentum to drain out of it.

It is high time for us to go back on strike, and not stop our action again until we have secured the future of the guard.

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Brexit, the white working class and liberal left

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 11:19

Six months ago now a debate was sparked by comments made by Eddie Dempsey, an activist for “full Brexit” and in the rail union RMT, at a “Full Brexit” rally on 26 March.

Dempsey said that “people that turn up for those Tommy Robinson demos or any other march like that – the one thing that unites those people, whatever other bigotry is going on, is their hatred of the liberal left and they are right to hate them” (emphasis added).

He further commented that “too many in the Labour Party have made a calculation that there’s a certain section at the top end of the working class, in alliance with

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 08:52
Author

Ollie Moore, Duncan Morrison and Darren Bedford

London Underground station workers at the east end of the District Line began industrial action from Friday 27 September, in a dispute over workplace safety.

Workers will refuse to detrain or attend incidents alone, and will work from a place of safety, after their union, RMT, launched a campaign to demand safe staffing levels following a spike in antisocial behaviour and staff assaults. Workplace safety is becoming an increasingly acute issue on the Tube, after a serious assault on staff at West Ham station.

Drivers in the RMT on four lines — Victoria, Central, Northern, and Jubilee — will

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 25/09/2019 - 08:24
Author

Gerry Bates

Strikes in Bristol, Nottingham, Colchester, Newcastle and South London have continued the campaign by Deliveroo riders and the IWGB union, for better pay and conditions.

The Nottingham riders demands included reverting the fee change back to the previous minimum of £3.90 for cyclists and £4.15 for motorised vehicles and removing the vehicle priority which has seen cars and motorbikes get priority over bicycles.

In Bristol an ongoing issue is the safety of riders, particularly moped drivers who have found themselves attacked and victims of robbery while they go about their work.

In Brixton,

Public Ownership Not 'Regional Control'!

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2019 - 11:01

Be careful Boris Johnson, you almost sound like you're advocating the public ownership of Britain's railways. The PM's policy announcement at the weekend was focused on giving more power to Mayors in the North of England to make decisions about how local railways are operated. Boris said, 'I want communities to take control'. He said this might mean, 'transferring local branch line and rural services to community rail partnerships, owned by local people.”

This appealing-sounding announcement has seduced some people. Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said, “This gives us what we need to create GM Rail and . . . an integrated London-style transport system". He added that this needed to come with 'a London level of funding'. Like many people, Andy appears to have missed that as of this year, central Government ceased to fund public transport operations in London.

The government review of Britain’s railways, led by Keith Williams, former British Airways chief executive, has already concluded that the current franchise system has “had its day” and passengers need to be prioritised. But is Boris Johnson's policy a sufficient response to the crisis facing Britain's privatised railways?

No!

Firstly, it appears to have been sketched out on the back of an envelope. A lot of detail is missing. Some detail is due to follow when Williams produces his report in a few weeks.

Secondly, it looks suspiciously like a re-brand of the status quo. There are already regional bodies, such as Transport for the North, who have a say in local franchising. It is not clear how this new announcement will add to existing arrangements.

Finally, and most importantly, regional control does not equate to public accountability. As long as private firms continue to run railway companies for profit, it won't matter whether they are managed from Manchester or Westminster, they will not meet the needs of the people using or working on them.

Is Johnson talking about full-blown public ownership? If not then his policy deserves to be condemned.

We are at the point when even a Conservative Government report is on the verge of concluding that the franchising system - the mechanism underpinning rail privatisation - is fundamentally flawed. There has never been a more obvious time to campaign for public ownership of the railways - with democratic control by workers and passengers.

Renantionalisation of the railways is one of the Labour leadership's most popular policies. Labour needs to be shouting it from this rooftops. The likes of Burnham shouldn't let the notion of regional control distract us from the true prize.

Trade Unions

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Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2019 - 09:01
Author

Ollie Moore and Will Sefton

Tube vote for action on noise

Driver members of the RMT union on London Underground’s Victoria, Central, Jubilee, and Northern Lines have voted to take industrial action short of strikes over excessive noise.

Drivers are demanding a permanent engineering solution to the problem of excessive noise in trains. The issue is caused by noise cancelling technology fitted to tracks to avoid excessive noise at street level, which has the effect of forcing the noise into the cabs, where it becomes unbearably loud for both drivers and passengers.

The action, which has yet to be formally named by the RMT,

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