Between September and November 2010, the RMT and TSSA led a series of solid one day strikes against job cuts on London Underground.
Then they stopped fighting. They declared a truce over Christmas and the union leaders recently voted not to strike before the cuts’ implementation on 6 February.
This has put local reps and activists like myself in a difficult situation. I am faced with questions like, “Why have I lost four days’ money and put myself on the line for this union? They have let me down and I am still losing my job!” Some of the best activists are disillusioned and do not think that we can win future battles. Management will capitalise on this weakness.
I have tried to be as honest as possible and not cover up for the union’s mistakes. Away from the workplace and the receiving end of the cuts, closer in lifestyle to the management they oppose, union leaders will not lead a fight as if their life depended on it.
At a recent meeting the Assistant General Secretary said tellingly that his priority at the end of each dispute is “to keep the union intact”, i.e. to protect the union as an institution. I tell people that when we strike, we are not striking “for the union”, but for our own interests.
We in Workers’ Liberty must push our perspective that our union movement should be led by rank-and-file workers, from the workplace. People are seeing the results of bureaucratic, undemocratic leadership. If we don’t present another way of doing things, they might leave altogether.
This is why we produce our bulletin Tubeworker, which encourages rank-and-file members to get more involved. We need to organise so that rank-and-file feeling can no longer be so easily ignored.