Off The Rails Spring/Summer 2014

First Great Western; Rail Gourmet; Northern Rail; Network Rail

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 16:20

A round-up of disputes and struggles at First Great Western, Rail Gourmet, and Northern Rail.


First Great Western

RMT members have been challenging First Great Western for months over several issues that amounted to what the RMT called a “breakdown in industrial relations”. In parallel, RMT members have been fighting an ongoing battle with First Great Western for the London Living Wage for Mitie and Rail Gourmet workers.

Following a strong yes vote for industrial action over the breakdown of industrial relations and a promise to pay the London Living Wage, the RMT has sent out messages to its

Fighting for LGBT rights worldwide

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 16:12

In many countries across the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are recurrently subjected to targeted killings, violent assaults, torture, and sexual violence.

Shockingly, in 2014, homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries around the world, and in 10 of these punishable by death or life imprisonment. In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has overseen and promoted a vicious onslaught of state-sponsored homophobic legislation in Russia to distract the public from widespread government corruption and other social ills. It is now illegal in Russia to even say

Funding strikes to win

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 16:11

As government cuts proceed unabated, and employers tighten the screw to make us pay and drive up their profits, rail workers find ourselves fighting more and more disputes.
And those disputes are for higher and higher stakes, fought with seriousness and determination by both sides.

Just as a snapshot, we currently have disputes on (at least) First Great Western, Heathrow Express/Connect, several cleaning companies, Northern Rail, London Underground, London Midland, Balfour Beatty, and probably several more.

In many of these, the employer is fighting for keeps, throwing its whole weight into

Fighting for rail renationalisation

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:59

ASLEF and TSSA voted to accept the “Collins Review” rule changes, which will lead to a drastic reduction in their (and all other Labour-affiliated unions’) voting strength within Labour Party structures.

This outcome needs to be registered as a clear defeat for the unions but in public they counter by pointing to other ‘positive’ changes of tenth rate importance. In private the thinking seems to be that the unions can’t rock the boat before the general election. This is coupled with mollifying but nebulous chatter about how militant towards Labour the unions will be after the elections.

In

Northern Rail's toilet humour

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:58

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, all public transport will have to be accessible by 2019.

The ageing "Pacer" DMUs (Classes 142, 143 and 144) cannot be made accessible without considerable refurbishment and the sacrifice of a good deal of the existing saloon space.

A rumour persists — and seems to be being confirmed informally by some NR managers — that on Northern Rail at least the solution to this problem is not to retire these decrepit units and replace them with decent, safe, modern rolling stock. Instead, the supposed plan is that the toilets will be removed altogether, thus

Fighting sexism

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:49

2015 will mark 100 years since the first woman joined the RMT's forerunner, the NUR.  
RMT women will use this anniversary to take pride in 100 years of fighting battles to break down barriers to equal treatment in our industry and our union.

But the anniversary is also a chance to reflect on how far we've come compared to where we want to be. We are still a long way from being equal. At work, we have to fight sexism. It's still too often assumed that we can't do our job as well as our male colleagues. One female engineer described how the annual interview to test her knowledge is an

Marxism at Work: fighting casualisation

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:44

Since 2008, 80% of all newly-created jobs in Britain have been on zero hours contracts, where workers have no guaranteed shifts and have to work to the whims of their employer.

Casualisation and the erosion of job security are particularly big problems on the railway. In July 2013, an RMT report estimated only 10% of Personal Track Safety card holders were employed directly by Network Rail. The remainder are employed through agencies or are considered self employed for the companies purposes.

Casual workers have no job security. They can often be told at a moments notice that they are no

Rail unions and politics

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:43

Our unions' political strategies need a serious rethink. TSSA, ASLEF, and Unite remain affiliated to the Labour Party, but are meek and acquiescent within it.

When the Collins Report, an initiative sponsored by the Labour leaders to reduce the union vote inside the party, was voted on, our unions voted for it! Turkeys voting for Christmas in extremis. They don't want to rock the boat before an election year, so, unless forced to change course, our unions will be, at best, mildly critical of the Labour leaders' lack of backbone and their promises to maintain most Tory cuts.

The RMT was expelled

Crossrail

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:39

Crossrail will run across London — from Brentwood to the north east, to Abbey Wood in the south east and Twyford to the west. It will affect rail workers across many companies, geographical areas, grades and unions.

Off the Rails thinks that unions should be joining together to get the best possible working conditions out of Crossrail. A lot of us have concerns that, rather than improving our conditions, Crossrail will make them worse. We have a lot of questions at the moment.

For example, it's less than a year until the the line between Liverpool Street and Brentwood is transferred from

Fighting Tube cuts and closures

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 15:34

Solid strike action in February and April has forced London Underground to concede on some aspects of its cuts plan.

The strikes secured guarantees from management that no worker would lose salary as a result of any changes, a commitment they had previously been unwilling to make.
But the threat to 953 jobs, and 270 ticket offices, remains. As well as its industrial campaign, the RMT union is supporting a political fight against cuts and closures, linking up with disabled people, pensioners, students, and others through the Hands Off London Transport campaign coalition. Ticket offices closures

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