There is a refreshing normalcy about redundancies being offered. They are always show up around the time that bad news will make people think twice about why they are working. Talk in my depot is varied.
There is a certain older age group who think that now they’ve done their time, it would be nice to leave with a little something extra; while at the younger end, demoralisation with a job that has changed dramatically, even in their relatively short experience, makes them think about a change of career.
This time is slightly different in that the redundancy process has started with managerial grades, and is only slowly coming down to lower grades. While some would say good riddance, we should all remember that not all these jobs are from feather-bedding of higher levels and they all represent someone’s livelihoods.
The staff, levels 5 to 8, that have been offered redundancy can be just as essential as frontline workers. They often take care of work that would otherwise be shifted to staff that are already dealing with masses of bureaucracy and don’t need any more, and safety issues don’t go away when the staffing levels go down.
In a nod to reality, no offer has been made to the engineering and operations staff on the front line at this time, mainly because the present level of staffing is struggling to cover sickness, annual leave, and training.
The RMT [the union] has shown its usual level of readiness. Despite throwing away our no compulsory redundancies agreement, and being told repeatedly that management would use Covid as an excuse to attack terms and conditions, the only response has been a couple of circulars saying “don’t agree anything with management in local meetings”. That only works where management aren’t riding roughshod over local reps and area councils.
This is a prime example of why we need workers’ control so that we can have oversight in planning a rational workplace.
• Matt Shaw is a railway trackworker