RMT: Changing Rules, Improving Democracy

Submitted by Off The Rails on 23 February, 2009 - 6:41

Off The Rails is promoting several rule changes in RMT this year. These need to be submitted to the union’s AGM by at least eight branches, so if you agree with them, please propose them at yours.

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REDUCING QUALIFYING TIME FOR AGM DELEGATES

At present, you have to be an RMT member for five years before you are allowed to be nominated as a delegate! We believe that this excludes young people and fresh ideas, and should be cut to two years.

RULE 13 BALLOT AND ELECTION PROCEDURES
Clause 19: delete ‘five’, insert ‘two’.

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MORE TIME TO SUBMIT AMENDMENTS

There can be as little as three weeks between the publication of resolutions to the AGM and the deadline for amendments. We propose the publication date is earlier and the deadline later, so every branch that meets monthly can submit amendments.

RULE 3 GOVERNMENT OF THE UNION: ANNUAL AND SPECIAL GENERAL MEETINGS
Clause 5.
DELETE ‘8th April’ INSERT ‘1st April’
DELETE ‘first Thursday in May’
INSERT ‘8th May’

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STRIKE COMMITTEES 

This proposal gives a role to strike committees in the union’s rules. When the union goes into dispute, the workers involved can elect a strike committee and have it recognised by the union.

As well as carrying out crucial organising work, the committee could make proposals to the union about how the action is run, and give its opinion on offers from the employer.

The Executive would make the decisions, but workers would have more say in our own disputes. This is not only more democratic, it also makes it more likely that we would win!  

RULE 22 TRADE DISPUTES
Add new clause 11 and renumber subsequent clauses.
11. In the event of a trade dispute, the Executive shall recognise a Strike Committee elected by and from the members involved in the dispute. The Strike Committee shall organise amongst members to maximise the effectiveness of strike action, and shall have the right to submit to the Executive (or General Grades Committee or Shipping Committee, as appropriate) resolutions concerning the conduct of the dispute, timing of strikes, etc. The Executive will seek the view of the Strike Committee on any new offer received from the employer before making a decision about it. The Executive retains the sole power to make all decisions regarding the dispute, as outlined in the rest of this rule.

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INCREASING THE NUMBER OF DELEGATES TO RMT AGM

This proposed rule change makes a radical change to RMT’s Annual General Meeting, making it bigger and more representative.

Currently, delegates are elected in area blocks, with one delegate per 1,500 members. This gives an AGM of just 60 or so delegates, which we believe is too small.

Under our proposed new system, each branch would get an automatic delegate for every 500 members, which it would elect at its branch meeting. There would also be regional elections, where branches would elect extra delegates by casting a block vote of the number of members not already ‘used’ to elect its own delegates.

For example, a branch with 620 members would elect one delegate at its meeting and could cast 120 votes in the regional election. A branch with 430 members would cast 430 votes in the regional election.

This would give us an AGM which would much better reflect the diversity of the union’s membership, with smaller branches having a voice, and with more delegates from the various companies and grades, as well as men and women of different ethnicities, backgrounds, ages and opinions.

It would also provide a direct line of democracy from the member to the AGM, as any member could attend their branch and raise an issue, if a majority backs them, the delegate would take that stance at the AGM.

Some people may worry that a bigger AGM would cost RMT more money, but the union is in the healthiest financial state it has been for a long time and we are confident it can find the cash. Anyway, a big improvement in democracy like this is worth it.

RULE 13 BALLOT AND ELECTION PROCEDURES
Replace Clauses 17, 18 and 21 with:

17. Delegates to the Annual General Meeting shall be elected annually by ballot, as described in Clauses 1 and 2 of the Rule.  Branches shall be grouped together in Areas (General Grades)/Regions (Shipping Grades) as per Regional Council areas.  Each Area/Region's delegate entitlement shall be one delegate per 500 members or part thereof.  This calculation shall be made annually, at the time nominations are sought, and shall be on the basis of the number of members per Area/Region on 31st December the previous year.

18. Delegates shall be eligible for re-election but shall not attend more than three successive Annual General Meetings. Delegates who have attended three successive Annual General Meetings shall not be eligible for re-election for a period of three years. Each Branch shall have the right to nominate one candidate for every 500 branch members or part thereof. A branch is automatically entitled to one Annual General Meeting delegate for every 500 members and its subsequent block vote in any elections to decide the remaining group’s delegates will be reduced by 500 votes for every automatic delegate it previously gained.

21. If for any reason a delegate is unable to perform their duties as a delegate, their place shall be filled by a member from that delegate’s branch. In the event of there being no member from that branch willing to be a delegate then the delegate will come from the branch which received the largest number of votes in a re-count of the ballot papers in the Area/Region in which the vacancy occurs.

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