The election of a Tory government is a big blow for railworkers, and all working-class people. Here are five fronts we'll have to fight on in the next five years, and beyond...
Take on the anti-strike laws
The Tories were just elected into government by just 24% of the electorate (36% of those who voted), yet they want to change the law so over 50% of us have to vote yes before a strike can be considered legal.
This is a serious threat: it is important that we defend ourselves against it and refuse to be cowed by it.
A good start would be for all the rail unions to engage us in preparing a strategy - one that does not include shying away from strikes for fear of provoking the Tories. If it comes down to it, our unions should break the laws rather than fail to fight for members' interests. (See box)
Fight low pay
Cameron kept boasting that two million jobs had been created under the last government. But most of these were bogus self-employed, zero-hours or minimum-waged jobs.
The Tories have used the economic crisis to engineer a low-wage economy to maximise companies' profits.
Right across the railway industry, we're seeing more contracting out to contractors and agencies who pay low wages, and increasing casualisation and wage cuts for directly-employed workers.
We need our unions to turn outwards and organise the unorganised with more determination and resources. Success will require belligerent struggle, backed by all grades across the railway.
Fight McNulty, fight private ownership
The Tories will accelerate the implementation of the McNulty Report. We can expect more TOCs to move towards “Driver-Only Operation” (DOO), de-skilling and downgrading guards or slashing jobs altogether. Station ticket offices may come under threat as the Tories look to move towards a more automated, de-staffed railway system.
Our unions' “Action for Rail” campaign needs to be turned into a vibrant, grassroots movement for public ownership of the railways, with meetings, rallies, and other direct actions. Wherever TOCs try to cut jobs or close ticket office, they must be met with strong campaigns of industrial and political resistance.
Fight divide-and-rule and racism with solidarity
With UKIP gaining over 12% of of the vote, and the Tories promising a referendum on EU membership, we can expect months of racism in the press, directing anger at migrants rather those responsible for social problems.
This climate will intensify the racism that our workmates from other countries are already facing.
As well as migrants, we can expect tirades against benefit claimants, disabled people, young people, and other groups - all in an attempt to get working-class people to direct our anger against other working-class people. Don't fall for it!
When relatively-better-paid railway workers, such as drivers, strike over pensions or pay, we will be told that that we are greedy, that this is a privilege that we should be stripped of because others are even worse off.
We need to use every opportunity to explain the cause of social ills: a capitalist system, backed by a government that serves to benefit the rich. We need to challenge racism and other prejudices with solidarity.
Make our unions fit to fight
In the face of all this, how can our unions become more effective?
First off, it would be better if we were all in one union - and while we remain in different ones, that they work together to organise action.
Beyond this, unions will be more successful in defending us if they are outgoing and imaginative, and welcome new members and encourage them to get involved - and most importantly, if they refused to be overwhelmed by the threat from the Tories and lead a determined, well-thought-through, rank-and-file-led resistance.
NEW TORY GOVERNMENT, NEW ANTI-UNION LAWS: LABOUR MOVEMENT MUST FIGHT BACK!
Off The Rails supporters in RMT branches submitted this Emergency Resolution to RMT AGM. Could your branch discuss a similar text?
This AGM notes that the Conservative government, elected on 7 May by the votes of 24% of the electorate (36% of those voting), used its first Queen's Speech to announce further restrictions country’s already-repressive anti-trade union laws. The "Trade Unions Bill" includes the introduction of a minimum 50% turnout threshold in strike ballots, and a requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote must vote in favour of industrial action in "certain essential public services (health, education, fire, transport)" for a strike to be legal.
This AGM believes that our ability to defend jobs, pay, conditions and pensions depends on a strong, active fight by the whole trade unionmovement to defend our right to strike. This fight will be most effective if it is proactive, starting immediately rather than waiting for specific attacks to be announced.
This AGM therefore resolves that RMT will:
1. work with other union branches, national unions, the National Shop Stewards Network, the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, and others to organise a national demonstration against the imposition of new anti-union laws, and for the repeal of existing ones, within the next three months, and a labour-movement conference by the end of the year.
2. produce and distribute leaflets and other materials making the case for repealing, rather than strengthening, anti-union legislation
3. when we take strike action, respond to media and political attacks in defence of our right to do so
4. work with other trade unions and relevant campaigning bodies in pursuing this campaign
5. submit a resolution to TUC Congress on this issue