Off The Rails Summer 2010

Serving Up Trouble

Published on: Sat, 12/02/2011 - 09:20

Abdi-Nasser is a retail worker for a franchise in a large train station.

Tell us about the work you do.
I work for SPS, Select Service Partner, the catering multinational that runs franchises in thousands of stations from here to Sydney. In Britain, it runs the Burger Kings, Upper Crusts, the bars and pubs at every station and airport.
It’s a minimum wage job, using mostly migrant labour. A lot of workers are here on student visas, with a limit of 20 hours on how long they can work, which means having more than one job under the counter. I know two Afghan workers who do 12 to 14 hour shifts

Network Rail

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 10:26

In the last Off The Rails, we described the battles on Network Rail as ‘a crucial fight’. But how is that fight going? These two pages carry reports from Network Rail workers on both the maintenance and the signalling side of the job.


NR Maintenance

We are now beginning to see the outcome of letting management prolong any dispute.
The opportunity to take affirmative action over the threatened job losses and associated de-skilling now seems to have been lost. The latest ‘final’ offer is nothing short of the old harmonisation proposals by the back door. We achieved a 2-day strike against

Justice for Jarvis?

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 10:24

When the bosses failed, workers were made to pay the price. That's what happened when Jarvis and its two rail companies - Jarvis Fastline and Jarvis Rail - were placed in administration earlier this year.

Jarvis was contracted by Network Rail, and NR and the government that backed it are to blame for the catastrophe that has befallen the workforce.

Jarvis had £100m worth of work on its order books. The work contracted to Jarvis still had to be done, so it would have made sense for the Jarvis workforce to continue to do the work. That's what happened when Railtrack went into administration in

Anti-Union Laws

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 10:22

John McDonnell MP presented his Private Members' Bill to parliament on 30 June. If adopted, it would significantly improve unions' ability to defend their members and would be the first step towards the full restoration of trade union rights.

After coming first in the Private Members' Ballot, McDonnell is sponsoring the "Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill" to tackle the increasing practice by employers of using minor technical errors in the balloting process - which have no material effect on the outcome - to take unions to court in order to prevent them from taking industrial action

Our Coalition Against Theirs

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 10:20

After Labour threw the election away by betraying the working-class voters who elected it, we now have a Tory-LibDem coalition government. The ConDems have launched an onslaught on our public services, our pay and conditions, and our rights. And we need to fight back to defend ourselves.


After urging people to vote LibDem to keep the Tories out, the LibDems have put the Tories in. This coalition stitch-up shows that the LibDem party is in no sense a friend of working people.

The toffs are back in charge. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are rich men, products of two of Britain's top private

Ticket Offices Under Attack

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 10:18

Rail companies around the country are slashing ticket office opening hours and cutting ticket-selling jobs, using the pretext that the internet, smartcards and other new technologies make ticket offices less relevant. It can seem hard to argue against this, but there are several relevant points.

  • The companies often manipulate the impact of the new technologies through deliberate policies to push custom away from ticket offices towards other outlets.
  • While some people are paying fares on the internet, many still prefer the face-to-face contact of an open ticket office.
  • Smartcards have

Hell on Wheels

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 09:45

The pamphlet Hell on Wheels: the Success and Failure of Reform in Transport Workers Union Local 100 tells the story of New Directions (ND), a rank-and-file group within Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, which represents New York transport workers. Written by Steve Downs of socialist group Solidarity, it focuses on how to achieve reform within unions.

Main events

1985: Members of Solidarity start ‘Hell on Wheels’ (HOW) bulletin. It broke the union leadership’s monopoly on information, encouraged all grades to stick together and campaigned, eg. encouraged people to refuse to work on

London Transport News

Published on: Sat, 10/07/2010 - 09:32

London Underground plans to cut around 800 jobs, mainly among station staff, and to slash ticket office opening times. There are also staff cuts in service control, and with 300 drivers more than it needs, LU seems to be trimming the ‘excess’ by sacking drivers for mistakes that would have got you a warning before now. And leaked documents have shown that plans are afoot to cut jobs in engineering and fleet.

RMT is balloting for industrial action, after spending an age gettng the ballot prepared. TSSA’s ballot is apparently not far behind, but have yet to hear what ASLEF will be doing.

The Trade Union Bureaucracy

Published on: Fri, 09/07/2010 - 18:23

Union members and activists are usually very loyal to our unions, work hard in day-to-day union organisation and disputes, and support our union leaders so long as they are supporting us. But we also often feel frustrated and demoralised when our unions settle deals above our heads or against our interests, drag heels and shy from a fight, or seek to resolve a dispute as soon as it begins. How often have we been baffled by seemingly bizarre actions from our unions?

If a union exists to defend its members, why would its leaders behave in a way that jeopardises the interests of the very people

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