Off The Rails

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...

Northern Rail's toilet humour

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

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

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...

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