Off The Rails Winter 2007/08

Network Rail Ops - Preparing To Fight

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:41

Network Rail operational workers are gearing up for a fight on pay – and on other issues.

The unions demanded a 1-year, 4.8% pay rise, to match what NR maintenance workers got this year. No, said management, you can only have 4.8% as the first year of a 2-year deal where you will get just RPI+0.5% inyear 2. If you want a 1-year deal, we’ll only offer 4.3%. No, the unions said rightly, so now only the 2-year offer is on the table.

The unions must dig in for a good 1-year deal. A 1-year deal is almost always best for workers: we can fight for improvements year on year rather than put our weapons


Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:39

As we reported in the last OTR, the process of ‘harmonisation’ of pay and conditions in Network Rail maintenance has dragged on for years. This has saved the company money, denying pay rises that workers are due. But the unions have no such excuse. The officers responsible for the issue have shown weak leadership and little initiative.

RMT will hold a special engineering grades conference in March, which will be a chance for rank-and-file reps to demand an end to the indecision. Management’s final document will doubtless fall short of the levelling-up that workers deserve, so the union must

East Midlands Trains

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:37

New bosses, same bad attitude

Three months into the new franchise, East Midlands Trains (ex Midland Mainline and part of Central Trains) management have announced their intention to tear up terms and conditions for Senior Conductors.

One of the conditions most liked by ex-CT EMT train staff is that Sundays are not part of the working week: a recent survey showed staff wanted to keep it that way. While the old operator wasn’t fussed because they weren’t interested in providing a Sunday service, it may be that as part of their winning bid the new franchisee had to guarantee to run it.

Now we

Unfair Dismissal

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:36

Network Rail has sacked long-standing RMT activist Albert Lingard in an act of blatant victimisation.

On 17 October, Albert was due to attend a reps’ meeting to discuss new rosters. Management told one of the other reps that though they had agreed to release him from duty for the full day, they now expected him to do four hours work covering signallers’ meal reliefs. Albert complained to a manager.

The next thing he knew, other managers were summoning him for an alcohol test. The breathalyser test was clear, so that should have been the end of that. But no – Albert was sent for a urine test,

Defend Your Pension

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:34

The Railway Pensions Commission has published its final report. While ATOC and Network Rail have welcomed it, issuing similarly-worded press releases, the unions have not. Unite describes the proposals as ‘controversial’ and ASLEF has expressed ‘acute disappointment’. They have every right to be disappointed as the commission has failed to meet any of the four key demands made jointly by the rail unions.

Whereas we asked for the scheme to be open to all employees, the report recommends closing the current Railway Pension Scheme (sca) [shared cost arrangement] to new starters. Instead, they

FirstGroup Exposed

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:31

First Great Western, First Capital Connect, First TransPennine Express, First ScotRail, Hull Trains, FTR, First Bus, First Student UK, ...

First Great Western is ‘Britain’s worst-performing rail route’ (Times online 10/1/08), attacked by Bob Crow for ‘heavy-handed and confrontational management … undermining our members’ jobs’.

Its parent company is First Group, the largest rail operator in Great Britain. Up to March 2007, First:
- increased its revenue by 22.4% on 2006
- increased earnings per share by 9.1%
- reduced borrowing from £704 to £516m
- ended the year with a share price 56% up

Fightback In France

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:25

Following the massive strike movement of last Autumn which ended in stalemate, French rail workers are preparing for the next round. Off The Rails’ ‘man in France’ met with Joachim, a union activist and member of Marxist group LCR at Gare Montparnasse in Paris. He described the atmosphere at the station in the wake of November’s battle with management over pensions.

“It’s over for now, and we didn’t win, although we did get some concessions out of the employers. For instance, originally they wanted us to retire at the age of 60, but we fought them down to 57. So, people don’t feel beaten. But

Marxism At Work: Women's Liberation

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:18

Women in rail and transport work in a male-dominated industry. The higher grades especially are dominated by men. In the areas with more women, such as catering or cleaning, the low wages reflect that these jobs are devalued as ‘women’s work’. We face sexist comments and sexual harassment, and when we challenge these, we are told we ‘can’t take a joke’. Domestic responsibilities still mainly fall to women, who perform a difficult balancing act between home and work life, getting little sympathy from management.

We live in a sexist world, surrounded by sexist media. We are made to care about

Organising Migrant Workers

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:16

Private companies’ drive to make profit has attacked our pay and conditions. With more use of agency and temporary staff, our jobs are becoming more casual. Employers want a ‘flexible’ workforce to suit their needs, without the burden of providing basic rights such as sick pay or job security.

Migrant workers have provided a flexible pool of labour for bosses to exploit, as part of their general erosion of workers’ rights. There has been a rise in ‘legal’ immigration from the EU since the early 90s. In 2004, 10 states, mainly ex-Stalinist countries, joined the EU, and 470,000 workers have

Tube Update

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2008 - 13:15

London Underground workers are gearing up for strike action against a raft of management attacks.

The company is using agency staff and security guards, and plans to bring in ‘mobile station supervisors’ covering several stations at once. Although this is currently confined to a dozen stations, a company document says that these measures will be considered for ‘future wider roll-out’.

On top of this, LUL is undermining minimum staffing levels, trying to weaken workers’ right to refuse to work on safety grounds, and has plunged its internal promotion system into chaos to justify external

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