Off The Rails

Can we force Labour to renationalise the railway?

In 2009, East Coast Mainline was taken out of the hands of private companies and effectively renationalised. Successive franchises had been bailed out by central government, so the route is now run by the state-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR). It is the only part of the mainline railway to be run by the state rather than for profit. Two private companies failed, but as a nationalised railway, East Coast has been successful. DOR claims less funding from the treasury than any of the privately-run franchises, and has returned over £1b into the treasury since it was established. East Coast...

East Midlands Trains: don't sell out Senior Conductors!

Last year, RMT members on East Midlands Trains (EMT) took nearly eight weeks of industrial action (short of strikes). After EMT bosses sought a high court injunction, some of the action was deemed illegal, on the basis that it was in fact strike action, rather than actions-short-of-strikes. EMT is suing RMT for hundreds of thousands of pounds off the back of that ruling, but say that they will reduce the amount of damages they will claim if the union agrees to swingeing changes to the terms and conditions of Senior Conductors. The RMT Executive will likely agree to this to save the union money...

No to DOO!

The Department for Transport’s “Stakeholder Consultation” document, released in Summer 2014, contained a requirement for bidders for the next Northern Rail franchise to set out a plan for moving to Driver Only Operation (DOO). In addition to this, it left the question of whether to introduce DOO on Transpennine Express to the discretion of those bidding to run that franchise. Moving to DOO nationally is one of the key recommendations of “Realising the Potential of GB Rail”, aka The McNulty Report. ASLEF leaders have speculated that the Government and rail bosses intend to use the railway in...

RMT rule changes

The next RMT Annual General Meeting, in June 2015, will be a chance to discuss changes to the union’s rules. The Executive will be submitting its own proposals arising from the review of the union’s structure - but rank-and-file members can also submit proposals through branches. Eight branches need to submit any particular proposal for it to get on the agenda. Off The Rails is promoting five proposals: see the insert in the zine for the full wording. 1. DISPUTE ADVISORY COMMITTEES. We want a new rule that whenever we have a dispute, the union must recognise a committee elected by and from the...

Off The Rails goes to France...

Off the Rails was in Paris at the beginning of October, speaking about the experience of 20 years of railway privatisation in Britain to French railworkers who are facing the start of a serious drive on the part of their state to privatise the railway because of pressure from the EU’s fourth rail package reforms. We applauded the fact that French railworkers have already taken 2 weeks of strike action in June against the plans, contrasting it with the failure of British railworkers to strike against privatisation back in 1994 at its inception. The French government has since ratified the plans...

Cleaners' struggles

Cleaners on Eurostar fought a campaign this year over pay, workload and staffing levels. Cleaners on London Underground’s Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines battled hard to resist their employer’s imposition of biometric booking on. These groups of cleaners work for ISS - popularly known in the industry as International Slavery Services. But other cleaning contractors have found themselves facing a fightback from their workforces too. Interserve cleaners at Waterloo are battling management bullying. Cleaners fought a dispute with contractor Voith on Virgin West Coast over the victimisation...

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

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

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

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

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...

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