Off The Rails Autumn 2008

Off The Rails Autumn 2008

The new Off The Rails is now available, covering issues from the economic crisis to Network Rail harmonisation, East Midlands Trains to improving union websites, plus the history of the OILC organising offshore, and much more.

Click here to read the articles.

Issues on EMT

As reported in the last edition of Off The Rails guards at EMT Connect went on strike over Sunday working on the 7th and 14th of June.

Network Rail Signallers

Extra Time

The ‘additional hour’ for signallers should be for emergencies only eg. late running trains, over-run possessions etc. But Network Rail are using this extra hour to save them putting a night shift or extra shift on - in other words, to save them money. Management are bullying staff to stop on an hour or come in one hour early, which is an abuse of the ‘additional hour’ agreement.

Signallers at Glasgow Central had to ballot for strike action to call a halt to management’s abuse on this issue. The rest of us should refuse to go along with it too.

RMT: Suggested Rule Changes

Off The Rails will be arguing for a rule change in the unions to give some formal status to strike committees. As RMT holds a 'rule change' AGM next year, we will be proposing a new rule that when the union goes into dispute, it will recognise a strike committee elected by the workers involved, which will have the right to submit proposals regarding the conduct of the strike to the union's Executive (General Grades Committee / Shipping Committee), and will be asked its opinion of any offer from the employer before the union decides whether or not to accept it.

The Case For Strike Committees

As rank-and-file trade unionists, we think it is important to extend democracy wherever possible.

A practical example of workers taking an active role in running the union and therefore strengthening its democratic structures is when strike committees have been democratically elected during disputes by the workers who are actually in struggle. A strike committee exists to not only organise pickets, collections and solidarity work, but to have a real say in how disputes are run - and most importantly, whether to continue or settle them.

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Southeastern Strikes

Workers on Southeastern Trains are striking about two separate issues - guards and drivers against the extension of dirver-only operation (DOO), and retail and engineering staff against a below-inflation pay offer. The strikes take place on 22-23 September.

The new 395 Hitachi 'Javelin' trains are management's pretext to extend DOO, leaving up to 1,000 passengers per train without the protection of a guard. ASLEF should join the action: the loss of the guards affects drivers’ safety and workload too.

OILC: a history lesson in organising offshore

This year, the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC) merged into RMT. It is twenty years since the tragedy that prompted the OILC to form.

On 6 July 1988, 167 workers died in a fire on the Piper Alpha oil rig. Later the same year, a gas explosion on the Ocean Odyssey killed a man. It was the third gas explosion in the North Sea in less than 3 months.

Fighting The BNP

500 hundred socialists, trade-unionists and residents rallied in Codnor, Derbyshire, on 16 August, to show opposition to the fascist British National Party's "summer festival" being held on a farm near the village. The protest was called by NottsStopTheBNP (NSTB) which is supported nationally by RMT and ASLEF. It had intended to prevent BNPers getting to the farm by blocking road access but a Public Order Act ruling imposed by the police and a lack of numbers severely limited that aspect of the protest.

Shhh! Pensions Under Attack

The unions have gone quiet over pensions. This is usually a bad sign. Like Network Rail harmonisation this one could run and run with members kept in the dark most of the time.

We could do with updates from the various head offices. If we are ever need to get action on this issue it is important to keep it in people’s minds and get it discussed in the messrooms. As recently as this year the RMT AGM reiterated its desire to defend railway pensions so some acknowledgement that it is still on head office’s radar would be reassuring.

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