All four trade unions on London Underground — ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite - are recommending their members accept the company's latest pay and conditions offer: 5% (i.e. RPI minus 0.5%) this year, followed by RPI+0.5% (minimum 2%) for the next three years.
A meeting on 4 October of workplace representatives of the largest union, RMT, voted that the union should hold a referendum recommending acceptance.
Workers’ Liberty members in the meeting argued and voted against recommending acceptance, pointing out that signing up to a four-year deal means setting aside important demands (such as shorter hours and a flat-rate minimum pay rise to benefit lower-paid grades) until 2015; and putting away one of the union’s best weapons for an all-grades confrontation with management over a period when LU bosses will be attempting to make further job cuts, one grade at a time.
Despite several other reps also arguing this view, the feeling from most reps was that there was not sufficient confidence amongst union members at workplace level for an immediate fight on this issue.
Members of the Socialist Party voted to accept the deal, arguing that not fighting over pay would better enable the union to fight more vigorously on the next battle. This is typical of the SP’s “mañana socialism”; the big fight is always the next one.
While it is disappointing that reps did not feel that members had sufficient confidence to take on management over pay at this time, the fact that the RMT went through a democratic process is encouraging.
If such channels of rank-and-file democracy can be built on and expanded, it will help develop members’ confidence for future battles, like those coming up on jobs and conditions.