Off The Rails

Democratise our unions!

The RMT is currently conducting a root-and-branch review of its internal structures. This means RMT members have a chance to say how they think their union should be organised. Off The Rails has a charter called “The Fantasy Union of Rail and Transport Workers”, which sets out our ideal vision for how unions should operate. The FURTW would be a union led from the workplace up, where members were engaged in deciding strategy and industrial action were controlled by those involved in them. It would also be an industrial union. You can read the charter here. The RMT’s review is a chance to make...

Assessing the East Midlands Trains pensions fight

In the aftermath of the pension dispute some rank-and-file train driver members of ASLEF at Nottingham attempted to call the leadership to account over their undemocratic actions in settling the dispute against the clearly stated wishes of the membership. This primarily consisted of seeking written explanation from the EC. With hindsight this was never going to be enough, they ignored our last letter for example. When they deigned to respond the answers we received included this timeless excuse for bureaucratic abuse of power: “In the middle of protracted and difficult negotiations it is not...

South West Trains in the heatwave

In the recent scorching temperatures South West Trains staff have often had to work out in the open in full uniform. Guards can be required to work on trains without air conditioning for 5 hours or more without a break. Management judge whether its hot enough to allow employees to take their ties off, and woe betide you if you decide to do so without permission. So who is it that can tell when you're getting too hot? Not you, that's for certain.The heat is also highlighting the poor condition of the Wessex route in general. First 20mph speed restrictions were instituted in numerous places to...

East Midlands trains dispute

The 2 to 1 result in the ballot for action short of strike on East Midland Trains by on-train and platform staff is a welcome reversal of previous failures to respond to management attacks. The dispute is due to a breakdown in industrial relations which covers several issues. One of these was rostering during the shutdown of Nottingham station for 5 weeks worth of long time planned engineering work. A few days before the start of the work bosses tried to impose an emergency roster on a lot of staff claiming it was part of their T&Cs. It isn't: but maintaining that position is a desparate...

Justice for the 33!

Agency workers staffed the north of the Bakerloo Line and the south of the District Line since London Underground took over from Silverlink in 2007. Wearing LU uniforms without earning LU wages, agency workers delivered outstanding customer service on flexible terms that suited LU’s needs. When short of staff, LU phoned the agency, which got an agency worker to keep a station running at the drop of a hat: the kind of flexible staffing solution that LU would like to replicate everywhere. Agency workers dealt with persons under a train, but were told to pay for counselling out of their own...

Marxism at work: no to immigration controls!

Right-wing media and politicians are whipping up a storm of fear over immigration. If we believe them, immigration is to blame for unemployment, housing shortages and low wages. The Home Office even has a van driving round telling “illegal” immigrants to “go home or face arrest”. Workers need to see through the lies peddled by the ruling class. Division based on nationality and immigration status only benefits our bosses. “Within a year”, says a typical scaremongering Ukip leaflet, “29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will gain the right to live, work and draw benefits here”. Off the Rails...

Domestic violence is a union issue

Every week, two women are killed by their partner or ex partner. Many thousands more (and a smaller number of men) are victims of domestic violence. This is NOT an issue to be dealt with behind closed doors. It affects people at work and we need to take it up as a workplace issue. Being a victim of domestic violence can affect how well you do your job, your timekeeping, your physical and mental well-being. But on a more positive note, going to work can be your means of escape, your opportunity to find support. Transport workers are subjected to an alarming level of assault at work, often...

Northern Rail dispute

RMT decided not to call strikes on Northern Rail in a dispute over casualisation, after signing an agreement with management which offered some concessions on ongoing issues. The company has agreed to changes or reviews on issues including concessionary travel and rostering systems. A communiqué from management to Northern Rail staff said the resolved items were “relatively minor in the scheme of things”. The central issue in the dispute, however, was Northern Rail’s use of agency staff, through the Trainpeople and G4S agencies. Although Northern Rail has committed to not expanding the use of...

Cleaners' battles continue

The Tyne and Wear Metro cleaners’ struggle for living wages, sick pay, and travel pass equality is now one of the longest-running disputes in the British labour movement. They began a two-week strike on 9 July, and have so far struck for 19 (not all consecutive) days in their dispute. Casualisation and outsourcing effects cleaners particularly badly, as it gives the bosses several layers to hide behind. The cleaners are employed by Churchill, who can pass the buck up to DB Regio, who run the Metro on a contract from its owners Nexus (who are still formally accountable to the local authority)...

Fighting casualisation

This issue of Off The Rails focuses on the issue of casualisation, and how to fight it (and how not to fight it!). On the centre pages, there’s an article looking at the “Justice for the 33” campaign, and elsewhere we discuss the dispute against casualisation on Northern Rail. Casualised forms of working are spreading around the railway industry like wildfire. Agency working, zero-hour contracts, temporary staff ... All are means for employers to plug gaps in coverage without forking out the cost of permanent staff with secure pay and conditions. There are now many engineering projects with...

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