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 away. In any case, Network Rail maintenance are due their next new deal on 1st January ’09: a 1-year deal for operational would synchronise all grades on one date, doubling the unions’ power to win a decent rise.
But 4.3% is not good enough, especially as employee pension contributions will rise by 3% this Autumn, turning a pay rise into a pay cut. There were other parts of the unions’ claim that NR’s offer doesn’t even address, such as more leave for relief signallers, who are messed around with anti-social shifts.
RMT, TSSA and Amicus-Unite have all told management that they will hold referenda recommending their members to vote ‘No’. Once this is done, they should move straight to a strike ballot. The pay rise was due on 1 January, so we are already in arrears. Experience tells us that the longer these things are dragged out, the more the momentum drains away.
Meanwhile, Network Rail is restructuring station staff, and has refused to guarantee no compulsory redundancies. But workers and passengers are crying out for more staff on stations, not fewer!
The company wants to deal with displacements under the ‘People Process’, a system they imposed without union agreement and which undermines the PTR&R (Promotion, Transfer, Redundancy & Resettlement) agreement.
Further evidence of management’s contempt for the PTR&R is the case of Peter Gregory, a Local Operations Manager in Lincoln. The company cut LOM posts and displaced Peter. If they had followed the PTR&R, his job would have been secure.
Peter’s workmates are so outraged that they have demanded a strike ballot. RMT’s Executive agreed, and the ballot closes on 14 February. If you are reading Off The Rails after this date, look out for either a management climbdown or a strike.
Big changes are afoot for signallers, with the continuing drive to scrap boxes in favour of super-dooper new control centres.
The West Midlands Signalling Scheme has a programme for the next six or seven years of boxes and panels closing with their work transferred to ‘workstations’ in a new centre at Saltley. Bentley Heath crossing box closes on 9 February, to be demolished that night!
In all, the West Midlands area will lose 75 jobs. Lots of signallers don’t know what their future holds, so everyone is feeling twitchy.
RMT is the strongest union in the company. To make itself fit to fight and win these battles, it has to get itself into shape. Workers need more information from the union – leaflets and newsletters round the workplaces, and a more useful website. We need better workplace organising, asking all new staff to join the union and debunking their illusions in their new employer.
Workers’ confidence sagged after RMT let us down over the 35-hour week. Rather than get demoralised, we need to learn the lessons. In particular, we are in no mood to be marched up the hill and down again.
The Network Rail workforce is a large and powerful one – it is time for us to punch at our full weight.