"Our union is an essential service": statement from members of RMT

Submitted by AWL on 30 March, 2020 - 9:49
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The following statement has been put out by members of rail union RMT

During the Covid-19 crisis, workers need strong unions more than ever. Many employers are placing workers in danger, with unsafe working practices and refusing to pay wages to people who stay away from work under government guidance. Workforces need collective action, workers need reps, reps need union support.

RMT reps have been working hard on workplace issues throughout the crisis, and have won important victories and concessions in many companies, for example full pay for outsourced cleaners on London Underground who self-isolate, and the closure of ferry operators’ on-board catering facilities in Scotland.

However, we are alarmed by the extent to which our union at a national level has reduced its level of activity in some areas; by the issuing of joint statements with employers and the government, buying into the lie that “we are all in this together”; and by the blanket abandonment of disputes and industrial action ballots, with no alternative strategy for pursuing disputes put in place.

RMT members will rightly want to be part of the collective social effort to confront the pandemic. But cooperation in that effort should be undertaken from a stance of militant opposition to, and distrust of, the bosses, and a refusal to give up on our struggles.

We call on the union nationally to:

• improve communication with members, giving clear advice and support on defending our rights and our health
• strongly encourage all branches and Regional Councils to continue operating as fully as possible, via online conferencing software, and offer branches funding and tutorials for such software
• stop issuing joint statements with employers and/or the government, and instead maintain our independent voice
• consider our industrial disputes on a case-by-case basis, drawing up (in conjunction with rank-and-file reps) effective strategies to pursue these disputes, taking into consideration the current situation
• campaign for full rights and adequate provision, including full pay during self-isolation, for self-employed workers (including bogus “self-employed”), zero-hours contract workers, and outsourced workers, in our industry and beyond.
• begin campaigning activity now for “no going back” after the pandemic, where we refuse to surrender, and in fact fight to make permanent, any gains made, e.g., full sick pay for outsourced workers.
• replace cancelled training courses with immediate alternatives such as mentoring or online courses tutored by our lay tutors
• engage with our equalities advisory committees about union action to address the particular needs of these groups during the crisis.

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