Tube; National Express; Unison Four
Tube: RMT wins limited gains – but what now?
The 10-11 June strike by members of the RMT union on the London Underground has won gains on all three of the fronts it addressed.
London Underground previously wanted a five-year pay deal. It shifted to offering a two-year option, and has now agreed to up it to RPI plus 1.5% in the first year (from 1%) and RPI plus 0.5% in the second.
The RMT has secured jobs or job offers for all RMT members facing compulsory redundancy. The union has also secured improvements to the attendance procedures. For example, the definition of a 26 weeks' maximum warning in future will mean exactly that.
Could more of the union's demands have been won? London Underground workers have once again been hampered by being divided into different unions. The other two main unions, TSSA (some station and office staff) and ASLEF (some drivers) have put up no fight on the issues.
It also must be said that RMT's national leadership has allowed momentum to drain from the campaign. It has allowed the ballot mandate for "action short of strikes" to lapse so that workers no longer had the option of, say, an overtime ban.
It delayed and delayed about setting new strike dates. It gave the bosses a deadline of 29 July to make concessions or face more strikes, but the date came and went with no declaration from head office.
Of course there was unsureness at rank and file level, too, about further strikes. But without updates or decisions from head office, that unsureness was bound to increase.
Unions negotiate. But it is possible to negotiate — in fact, it is better to negotiate — on the basis that further industrial action is set to happen unless the bosses concede, rather than on the basis that further industrial action will be set only if and when the union leaders decide that negotiations are hopelessly stalled.
National Express workers step it up
Workers at the National Express East Anglia train company are stepping up their fight over pay, conditions and reorganisation with their third 48-hour strike set for Thursday and Friday of this week (20 and 21 August).
Members of the RMT and Aslef transport unions struck solidly for the second time last week. Workers in the TSSA union are set to join them this week. This feature of the action — cross-union collaboration — has been enormously positive.
The strikers are defiant in the face of a concerted media attack, which is spewing out the bosses’ lies. Meanwhile there are no signs that management are prepared to settle.
“Unison Four” banned from office
Unison NEC member Glenn Kelly and three other officers of London branches have been banned from holding office.
The four activists, all Socialist Party members, had been accused of distributing a leaflet which contained "discriminatory material" at the 2007 Unison conference. The leaflet questioned why a third of branch motions were omitted from the agenda.
Unison’s own investigation accepted there was no racist intent.
Instead of dropping the action Unison charged the four with a breach of rules for questioning the decisions of the Standing Orders Committee, the body which authorises agenda items.
Glenn Kelly and Onay Kasab have been banned from union office for three years; Brian Debus for five; and Suzanne Muna for four.