Off The Rails

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...

Rail unions and politics

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

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

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...

Off The Rails Spring-Summer 2014

The Spring-Summer 2014 issue of Off The Rails, a platform for rank-and-file rail workers. This issue features articles on: • Fighting sexism in our workplaces and unions • The May elections: what Ukip really stands for; debating rail unions' political strategy • LGBT struggles worldwide • Reports on disputes at: London Underground, Network Rail, Northern Rail, First Great Western, and Rail Gourmet • Marxism at Work: fighting casualisation ... and much more! Click here to download the PDF.

Royal Baby 1894: Up the Republic!

In 1894, Keir Hardie (a proper Labour MP), delivered a speech in Parliament during a special session given over for MPs to give messages of congratulations to the Royal Family on the birth of the prince who would grow up to become King Edward VIII. We think his words ring very true today… “We are asked to rejoice because this child has been born, and that one day he will be called upon to rule over this great Empire. Up to the present time we have no means of knowing what his qualifications or fitness for that task may be. It certainly strikes me – I do not know how it strikes others – as...

Labour and Tories: two cheeks of the same arse?

Recently the Tories drew level with Labour in opinion polls for the first time in 18 months due to the UK Independence Party's national vote collapse. The probability of a second Tory government is increasing. The Tories want to cut our industry to the bone. But what would Labour do with it? Would a Labour government be any better? How can workers in our industry and across society have a say in politics as the major parties gear up for the next General Election? The Tories have wholeheartedly endorsed the McNulty report, which recommends sorting out the problems caused by privatisation with a...

No job cuts on London Overground!

Over 100 jobs on the London Overground network could be lost, as London Overground Rail Operations Ltd. (LOROL) seeks to move to “driver-only operation” (DOO). The immediate impulse for cut is a 12.5% cut in central government funding for Transport for London, announced in George Osborne’s 26 June spending review. Moving towards DOO is also key recommendation of the McNulty Review into railway industry reform. LOROL wants to implement DOO by December 2013, and, according to rail union RMT, plan to begin the process even if the new staffing arrangement has not been safety-certified. A union...

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