Tube unions & politics

Support the 20 September climate strike!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Tue, 23/07/2019 - 11:02

School students who have been striking to demand radical action on climate change have issued a call for workers to join them in their next strike on 20 September.

Climate change is one of the most serious issues facing our society. Scientists calculate that we now have around a decade to take action to avert ecological catastrophe. Failure to do this could lead to droughts, floods, extreme heat, food scarcity, and more, affecting millions of people.

As public transport workers, we work in an industry that needs to be radically expanded to give people a meaningful alternative to high-emissions forms of transport such as cars.

71% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 have come from just 100 corporations. Confronting climate change means confronting capitalism’s drive for profit. As workers, whose labour powers the economy, we have a unique potential power to challenge the rule of profit and change the way our society is organised. The Evening Standard estimates that a single day’s strike on the Tube “costs” the London economy £300 million.

School climate strikers know that they need organised labour to act with them if we are to win real change. Their call for workers to join their 20 September strike is a challenge to all of us to step up to the plate and play in a role in saving our planet.

Currently, there are real obstacles our employers and the state have set up to prevent workers taking effective action. For example, anti-union legislation prevents us from striking over “political” issues, meaning we couldn’t hold legal strikes over the issue of climate change in and of itself. Balloting laws make the process of organising a strike bureaucratic and long-winded. Our unions need to renew their efforts to challenge and defeat such anti-union legislation.

We also need to think creatively about how we can support the 20 September call. Two unions, the University and College Union (UCU) and the Bakers’ union, have officially declared their support for the 20 September strike, with UCU encouraging its members to organise mini walkouts. Some branches of Unison in local government and education are also planning action.

Simply walking off the job en masse is not feasible for us (yet!), but we can still act in support of the climate strike on 20 September. Here are three suggestions from us here at Tubeworker:

• Even a small workplace action, such as getting everyone together in the mess room to take a photo holding signs/placards supporting the strike, could have an important symbolic impact.
• Workers at Zone 1 stations could attend the school strikers’ rally, which will take place in central London.
• If we are in a position to call strikes in any of our own ongoing disputes - such as the fight against Transformation, the pay fight, or the ABM cleaners’ dispute - we should consider coordinating action on 20 September. We should also highlight the environmental aspects of our existing demand. The demand for a reduced working week has many resonances in this regard: for example, more time away from work can help reduce emissions by reducing the need for daily commutes. Longer holidays for all workers also mean less pressure to use short-haul air travel and could allow us to use international rail travel instead.
• Longer term, we should look to build disputes which use environmental issues as a workplace organising tool. For example, air quality is a significant issues affecting Tube workers. We should seek to organise a dispute demanding TfL, LU, and the Mayor take further action to improve air quality in and around Tube stations. Workers striking over environmental issues in the workplace could then coordinate with school students striking over the general issue of climate change.

To organise any of this needs an urgent discussion in the workplace about climate change issues, how they affect us, and what we can do about them. It also needs us to ensure these issues are being discussed seriously within our unions.

Without working-class direct action against climate change, we have no future. With such action, a better future is possible.


A workers' climate plan for transport?

To avoid climate catastrophe, we need to demand radical measures from our government, such as public ownership of all energy generation.

But workers can also propose plans for our own industries and workplaces, like Lucas Aerospace workers did in the 1970s when they proposed to repurpose their factory to produce sustainable, socially-useful technology rather than military hardware. As part of a workers’ climate plan for transport, we could demand:

• Expansion of projects to use waste heat/energy generated by the Tube to power or heat homes
• A specific energy contract to ensure electricity powering the Tube is generated from renewable sources
• TfL to audit its vast property portfolio and end the practise of selling off buildings and land to luxury developers; ensure all buildings are sustainbly powered; invest in parkland projects
• Restore the government subsidy
• Democratic workers’ and passengers’ control of transport.

Tubeworker topics

City Hall security assaults activists to spare Khan’s blushes

Submitted by Tubeworker on Thu, 20/06/2019 - 13:21

RMT took the fight against ”Transformation” cuts and the exploitation of outsourced cleaners to Sadiq Khan’s front door today, with a demonstration outside City Hall, organised to coincide with Mayor’s Questions.

Other unions, including Unite and IWGB, had also organised actions, along with environmental campaigners from Extinction Rebellion.

After rallying and chanting outside the building, a small delegation of activists peacefully attempted to enter City Hall and were violently assaulted by private security guards. Several were left with bruises and scrapes. These are the violent lengths City Hall will apparently go to in order to save Sadiq Khan the embarrassment of being confronted with the cuts and exploitation taking place on his watch!

With RMT now balloting for strikes against Transformation, and planning ballots of cleaners, Interserve security staff, and of all directly-employed LU staff over pay and conditions, we wonder whether Khan will be able to continue to ignore workers’ demands when our strikes bring London to a standstill.

Tubeworker topics

Demonstrate at City Hall!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Tue, 18/06/2019 - 12:00

RMT has called a demo outside City Hall on Thursday 20 June. It demands “no Tory cuts under a Labour mayor”, pressing Sadiq Khan not to pass on Tory austerity to transport workers and users in London.

The two specific focuses are the “Transformation” scheme, which threatens thousands of jobs in engineering and admin roles, and the struggles of outsourced workers.

The demo assembles from 10:00. Tubeworker will be there, and we hope you will be too.

Bring the Jobs Fights Together!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 14:40

Many grades in many locations are suffering under the destaffing over recent years, or are facing imminent cuts to jobs.

The unions - primarily RMT - are fighting back on several fronts. RMT has scored some successes, including on Bakerloo South stations groups and the cleaning contractor, ABM.

Now, more stations groups are going into action, and the union is gearing up for battles against a 2009 agreement on trains that restricts depot staffing levels, and threatened cuts to train prep.

Moreover, other issues under dispute - for example, the ludicrous red tabards, or unacceptable rosters or ticketing problems - are rooted in staff shortages.

Our fightback will be stronger if we fight the roots cause rather than just the symptoms. The more we can bring these disparate disputes together, the better.

This might be easier said than done, particularly since the imposition of difficult-to-reach ballot thresholds by the 2016 Trade Union Act, but with the will and the effort, it can be done. And even if we don't feel ready to call everyone out on strike yet, we can synchronise ballots and actions in different areas.

Moreover, the root cause has a root cause too, as under-staffing is the result of under-funding. Tubeworker would like to see our unions campaign more stridently against the government's cut to TfL's funding and TfL's failure to fight that cut.

Bosses treat us like equipment - we say: fight for socialism!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sat, 26/01/2019 - 14:31

It can sometimes be difficult to see beyond the small battles we fight all the time at work; these can lead to two attitudes.
One is to say, “Why are we banging on about socialism, we’re a trade union, what's that got to do with us?”. The opposite is, “what's the use? Even if we win this small battle and they'll just come back at us with something else.”

However, there is a very simple reason why these small battles are not only important, but expose the very nature of the system we live in.

Whether we are defending an individual member who the company wants to get rid of, fighting for a reduced working week, or campaigning against red tabards, we are saying one thing: we are not robots, we are not pieces of machinery. We are complete human beings entitled to a home life, to leisure, relaxation, and fun. We do useful work and many of us are proud to work on the Underground, but work is not what we are for. It's not the reason for our existence.

The reason we have to fight for this to be recognised is that we live in a capitalist society.

London Underground has to quantify everything in monetary terms. When our system breaks down, the impact is measured in terms of money lost to the economy. When a part of the machinery breaks, it must be repaired as quickly as possible or thrown away if it will take too long to repair. London Underground sees us in the same way.

The system works a lot more efficiently if all of its parts (us!) are obedient and trouble free. If we’re on strike, it costs money; if we're sick, it costs money; if the system can be run with fewer of us, it saves money; if each unit (person) performs more tasks, it saves money.

The needs of the system are completely opposite to the needs of the workers because of this contradiction.

When we fight the smaller battles mentioned earlier, they are a direct product of that. When we fight against a member being medically retired, we are saying, “No, she's not a piece of broken down machinery, she's a human being and must be treated like one.”

When we fight against red tabards, we’re saying, “No, we won't help you pretend to the customers that the only thing wrong with your programme of cuts was a mistake in the colour of the uniform.”

When we fight for cleaner air, a shorter working week, longer holidays, we’re saying, “We are entitled to this because our purpose as human beings is to live healthy, happy lives. We are not profit producing robots”. Socialism is what a society would look like if it was measured in human terms.

Capitalism must be resisted, and we will fight to chip away at it until we can abolish it altogether.

Tubeworker topics

Labour rank-and-file challenge Tory cuts and Sadiq Khan's failures

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 21:00

London Labour Party members are set to debate a resolution condemning both the Tory government's cut to TfL funding and Sadiq Khan's decision to implement rather than fight the cuts. The resolution, which has already been passed by one branch, is copied here.

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON

This conference condemns the savage cuts in funding to Transport for London by the Conservative government, which expects London Underground to be the only major metro system in the world to run without public subsidy.

This conference notes:
1. Transport for London’s plans to cut bus routes and London Overground ticket offices, adversely affecting working-class areas and access to public transport for poor and disabled people
2. that cleaners on London Underground and elsewhere on TfL are employed by contractors and agencies at very low rates of pay, with minimal rights to sick pay and leave
3. that TfL has awarded its top bosses pay rises of up to 74%

This conference would expect such policies from a Conservative Mayor and GLA, and is seriously disappointed to see them implemented by a Labour administration.

This conference further notes that Labour party members will be campaigning for Labour’s candidate for Mayor this year, and wish to do so on the basis of progressive, socialist policies rather than having to defend indefensible policies such as those listed above.

This conference calls on Labour’s Mayor and GLA members to:
1. launch a major campaign against the funding cut rather than implementing it with minimal protest
2. abandon its plans to cut bus routes and close ticket offices
3. boost the pay of its workers, especially the lowest-paid, rather than its highest-paid managers
4. bring contracted-out services such as cleaning, catering and maintenance functions into direct TfL ownership and control

Michelle Rodgers for RMT National President!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sun, 23/09/2018 - 13:13

Michelle Rodgers works for Arriva Rail North, where she is a local RMT rep. She sat on the union’s National Executive Committee from 2014-2017, and is the secretary of RMT Manchester South branch. She is standing to be the union’s next national president; Tubeworker is supporting her campaign. We spoke to Michelle about her approach to trade unionism and why London Underground workers should vote for her. Ballot papers will be delivered to RMT members’ home addresses from 1 October. Speak to your local rep to ensure your details are up-to-date.


Q: How would you explain the role of the president to an RMT member who isn’t necessarily engaged in the structures of the union?

A: The president is there to ensure the union is run democratically, in an open and participatory way, and that members’ voices are heard. It is the highest “lay” position in the union, rather than being an “officer” position; this means that the president is released from their job for a three-year term before going back to work. The president is a voice for the grassroots membership in the national leadership of the union, helping to ensure the union takes its direction from the wishes of the members.

Q: What kind of president would you be?

A: I cut my teeth in a lengthy unofficial strike in 1993. That taught me a lot. The key lesson I learnt was that as workers, our power ultimately comes from our ability to withdraw our labour. I’m well aware of all the industrial issues London Underground workers are facing, across all grades, as well as the major political issue of the Tories’ cuts to TfL funding, and the struggles of outsourced workers like cleaners. Our best means of winning change on all of these is through coordinated industrial action. RMT has a proud history of helping members organise to take action; as president, I’d ensure that any group of workers who wanted to take action to improve their conditions at work were supported and encouraged in doing that, rather than being dissuaded or held back.

With the “Corbyn surge” in Labour, we’ve seen a lot of young people energised by radical politics and inspired to get active. We need something similar in the trade union movement, including RMT. As president I’d work to make our union as open and democratic as possible, as well as continuing and developing our militant traditions, to ensure members could take ownership of union structures and use the union to fight for change at work.

The three key principles of my campaign are “democracy, equality, solidarity”. Democracy, because as president I’d work to ensure the union’s democracy was upheld and extended so rank-and-file members can lead; equality, because I fight for a socialist society based on equality, and because I want to advance equality within the union; and solidarity, because it’s only by standing together with each other and taking action as workers that we can win change.

Q: The workforce in many parts of London Underground, especially on stations and amongst cleaners, is very diverse; if elected, how will you ensure the full diversity of the unions’ membership is represented?

A: I am the equalities candidate in this election. It was debates in our union, including in the pages of RMT News, around equalities that finally spurred me on to stand. I’m a strong believer that all the equalities campaigns within the union – women members, LGBT members, BAME members, and disabled members – should be empowered, so they’re better able to make sure members from these backgrounds, who are often under-represented in the union, are at the heart of what the union does.

Q: How will help members, who may currently see the union as a kind of “insurance policy” that’s only relevant to them if they get in trouble, become more engaged and active?

A: Union reps and activists can sometimes become insular, only really talking to people who are already involved. We need to turn outwards. As a local rep, I’ve made particular efforts to engage with new members, and especially young members, about what the union is and how they can get active. They’re now amongst our core branch activists. I’ve also ensured our branch meetings have enough time on their agenda to allow any member to come along and have their workplace issues discussed. As president I’d work with everyone – from NEC members down to local reps – to build that same culture of openness and participation throughout the whole union. The union is all of us, and it belongs to all of us.

Q: The pressures of working life, including shift work, as well as the pressures of being a union rep and activist, can lead to burnout, and mental health issues. There is a growing conversation about mental health in society; how would you continue that conversation within the union?

As a local rep and branch officer, my door is always open. That would be my policy if elected as national president. My door would always be open to any member. We need to be open and honest with each other about pressures we’re facing, and mental health issues we may be experiencing. The union should be a supportive environment for all members. We’re starting to take those issues more seriously, with some excellent courses on mental health awareness at work, and how reps can organise to fight for positive change at work around these issues, being run via our National Education Centre. I’d support those efforts and encourage as many reps and activists as possible to attend.

Q: There’s sometimes a frustration that, when we pass resolutions through our RMT branches, they seem to get lost in union officialdom or knocked back for bureaucratic reasons. What would you do as president to improve that?

A: I will be in constant communication with your elected reps and officers at all levels, from workplace reps to branch officers to your National Executive member, to ensure that the resolutions you pass through your branches are responded to and acted on as swiftly as possible. I’m not afraid to stand up to national officers like the General Secretary and Assistant General Secretaries when necessary. The union must be led by the democratic decisions of our members. The president is there to ensure that happens.


The “Piccadilly Four” strike, and what it taught me about trade unionism

Michelle says...

I cut my teeth in the union in a lengthy strike, which began as unofficial action, in 1993. The employer at the time was still British Rail, and I was working out of Manchester Piccadilly station as a guard. Our reps were negotiating with management about rosters, and the talks had reached an impasse. There was an agreed procedure for what should happen next, but instead of following it, our bosses decided to sabotage the negotiations. They ripped up papers in the meeting, told the reps they’d be imposing the rosters whether we, the workers, liked it or not, and stormed out.

The next day the rosters were imposed, so we walked off the job. It was a spontaneous, wildcat strike. We just walked off our trains. The impact showed me the power that workers’ action can have.

The bosses accused our reps of inciting us to take unofficial action, as sacked them. That just made us more determined to fight. We were on unofficial strike for three-and-a-half weeks. We had mass meetings of guards in a club near Manchester Piccadilly. I was driving round union branches in the region collecting for our strike fund. That taught me a lesson too, about the need for the union to be prepared to support members taking sustained industrial action financially. When I was on the National Executive, I consistently pushed for proper strike funds to support our members taking action against Driver Only Operation. If elected president, I’d work with NEC members and reps to make sure we did that.

Tubeworker topics

Brexit threatens migrants' rights

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 16:29

As the Tory government's shambolic Brexit negotiations continue, there's ongoing uncertainty for migrant workers, both EU and non-EU, about how Britain's immigration laws might be reformed.

We already know that cleaning contractors use immigration controls to undermine workers' organisation; they have targeted union reps in ISS and shopped them to border police in the past.

If the immigration system is overhauled to make visa conditions more restrictive, or to force EU migrants to reapply for leave to remain, it could lead to cleaners having their right to work revoked or, worse, facing deportation.

RMT supports Brexit and a tougher border regime; Tubeworker disagrees. We think closed borders help divide workers on the basis of national origin or immigration status. We believe the right to free movement is a human right.

But notwithstanding this political debate, RMT must defend its migrant worker members and stand up for their right to remain amidst the Brexit chaos.

Tubeworker topics

For workers' unity against the far right

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sat, 21/07/2018 - 14:52

Demonstrations on 9 June and 14 July saw the far right out in force, in their greatest numbers since the 1930s. The demonstrations have been organised in support of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka "Tommy Robinson", recently jailed for contempt of court. After the demonstration on 14 July, a group of far-right thugs attacked people in a Westminster pub, including a number of Tube workers and RMT members.

These events should be a wake-up call. A growing far right is a threat to the labour movement.

Trade unions seek to organise all workers, regardless of ethnicity or national origin. This fundamental mission of working-class unity means we are necessarily counterposed to the politics of the far right. Whenever far-right movements have grown and become powerful, they have sought to smash trade unions.

The divisive, nationalist ideas peddled by the likes of Robinson have won support from some sections of the working class. Our unions, the Labour Party, and other labour-movement organisations need to tackle those ideas head on, and offer an alternative politics based on solidarity and socialism.

Low wages, lack of affordable housing, and cuts to services have led to widespread social despair and alienation in many communities in Britain. In these conditions, the racist and nationalist narratives offered by the far right can seem appealing, with their easy scapegoats and simply solutions, which blame immigrants for all these ills and claim that by ending immigration, life will be better for "white workers".

But immigrants are not to blame for these problems. They are the result of political choices made by successive governments to pursue austerity economics. All workers - British-born and migrant - have suffered at the hands of these policies. We should defend migrants' rights, including from the threats posed to them by Brexit, which will end the right of free movement around Europe, and promote radical working-class policies: universal living wages; mass council house building; reversal of cuts and privatisations of services; all funded by taxation of the rich and the expropriation of the banks.

Moreover, Robinson's stand against "grooming gangs" is a hypocritical attempt to cynically exploit an issue to advance racist politics. Sexual abuse of women and girls is by no means limited to Muslim communities, and is not a problem that would be solved by restricting immigration as the far right proposes. Robinson's movement pushes a deeply nationalist agenda that is evolving increasingly in the direction of white supremacy. Fascists and neo-Nazis like Generation Identity are involved in his movement and have been present on their demonstrations.

Our workplaces on London Underground are multiracial and include many workers from migrant backgrounds. At work, we all pull together to get the job done, and when we take action, we stand side-by-side on the picket line. We know we have common interests as workers, interests that we share against our bosses, regardless of the colour of our skin or whether we were born in this country. Our daily experiences are a living reminder that the divisions the far right wants to impose are artificial and destructive.

Through our unions, we can stand together against racism and fascism, opposing the far right when they mobilise in the streets, and promoting a socialist politics than can provide real answers to the despair on which they feed.


Safety at work?

Many of us, such as station staff and cleaners, could face particular risks as far-right mobilisations grow. Already we have seen a Muslim bus drivers harassed by far-right thugs. If large groups of fascists are moving through our stations on demo days, we could also face attack.

Remember: you can refuse to work if you feel unsafe. If workers' safety is compromised, stations should be closed. Our unions must back any groups of workers taking such a stance.

Tubeworker topics

Two views on the RMT Labour reaffiliation debate

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 23/04/2018 - 21:44

The RMT is currently debating whether to reaffiliate to the Labour Party. The decision will be made at a Special General Meeting in Doncaster on 30 May. In the run-up to this meeting, many branches are holding special meetings to decide their positions and mandate their SGM delegate.

A majority of those involved in producing the Tubeworker bulletin support reaffiliation: this view is reflected in the first article below, and elsewhere on this site (including in this briefing).

However, some supporters of the Tubeworker bulletin take a different view. As Tubeworker is committed to open, democratic debate, this view is also reflected here, in the second article.

Rejoin Labour and fight!

An earthquake has taken place in British politics in the last few years. The Labour Party has its most radical leadership for a generation, and has brought policies such as the renationalisation of the railways, the postal service, and utilities back into the political mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded into the Labour Party, inspired by its newly radical message, eager to get active to kick out the Tories. The Tory government is weak: a left-led Labour government is a real alternative.

The right wing within the Labour Party can be isolated and defeated. It is strong and vocal within the Parliamentary party, but with little support in the grassroots of the party. In boroughs like Haringey, a combined movement of party members and local trade unions has swept right-wing councillors out of their way following their support for gentrification.

It is in this context that the RMT, the only union organising on London Underground which is not affiliated to Labour, is discussing the prospect of reaffiliation. There is an explosive struggle taking place within Labour, a struggle to fulfil the radical potential of the Corbyn surge and transform Labour into a genuinely democratic, genuinely socialist party. By reaffiliating, RMT could play a practical role in that struggle.

Knowing the history is important here. The Labour Party was founded in the early 1900s because the most active unions at the time had arrived at an important political conclusion. They realised that making deals with friendly MPs in the Liberal party, or even the Tories (the only two major parties at the time), was not good enough. Organised labour needed its own political party, based on and linked to workers’ basic organisations: trade unions. Thus the Labour Party was born.

A great deal has taken place since, and much has changed. But that basic reality - that our class, the working class, needs independent political representation via our own party, linked to our unions - remains.

Despite the best efforts of the likes of Tony Blair, right-wing Labour leaderships have not been able to entirely break Labour’s links to the working-class movement. Now, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the party is undergoing a process of transformation of a different kind: making it more radical, and returning it to its foundational aim of representing working-class political interests.

That radical transformation is far from complete. There is still a substantial Blairite element within the party. The force that can defeat them, and carry through the radical transformation of Labour, is the combined weight of the hundreds of thousands of new members, many of them young, who have flooded into the party in support of Corbyn, and the affiliated trade unions. RMT should rejoin their ranks.

By reaffiliating to Labour, RMT can have a direct voice within party structures. RMT activists could stand in internal selections against right-wing Labour candidates, offering an alternative to the New Labour throwbacks. RMT could propose policy at Labour conference, and have a representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee. RMT branches could affiliate to local Labour Parties, guaranteeing local representation and giving us an opportunity to mobilise within Labour in support of our industrial campaigns: against job cuts, and for better pay, terms, and conditions.

In London, affiliation to Labour would allow us to directly challenge, within the party, Sadiq Khan’s failure to offer any meaningful resistance to the Tories’ slashing of the TfL budget. Direct pressure within his own party, combined with industrial action to resist the cuts, could have an enormous impact.

We should face up to the fact that RMT's current political "strategy" is barely a strategy at all. It is a recipe for passivity, for having no strategic intervention into politics, to throwing money away on fringe candidates standing against Labour who garner pitiful votes. Promoting candidates against Labour might make sense if they were making sharp, class-struggle-socialist propaganda, but the lowest-common-denominator "anti-cuts" message of the so-called "Trade Union and Socialist Coalition" candidates RMT will be backing in the 3 May council elections is hardly going to advance political consciousness. Standing candidates against Labour is a dead-end: reaffiliating, and standing or supporting alternative candidates within the party against right-wing MPs or councillors will be far more effective.

We should not see our union’s political strategy in isolation from the wider labour movement. Our aim should not be an “independent” strategy, but to be part of a collective effort of the entire labour movement, or a substantial part of it, to secure working-class political representation.

A Corbyn-led Labour Party, bolstered by hundreds of thousands of new members, in a state of clear political flux with great potential to become more democratic and more radical, offers the best vehicle for pursuing that aim. RMT should reaffiliate to Labour and join the fight.


Retain RMT's current political strategy

This Tube worker argues that our union and the wider labour movement, including the socialists in the Labour Party can best be supported by the RMT maintaining its current political strategy. We currently have the power to withhold our support from politicians who work against our interests, as well as giving support to those who support us.

The members on the gateline and in the cab have no appetite to change a winning formula. We are told that if we don’t affiliate to Labour, we are left with a choice of bosses' parties. But Labour still is, to a large extent, a bosses' party! Members are pointing to the Labour mayor of London, elected thanks to support for Jeremy Corbyn. We are asking why our Labour mayor is content to administer billions of pounds worth of cuts, preside over the current "transformation" process which is devastating our admin grades and allows the continued exploitation of our cleaners by an outsourced company, despite all the promises of change.

Members point to the disgraceful spectacle of Labour MPs queuing up to undermine the leadership, inside parliament and out. The change in leadership and the consequent surge in membership is to be welcomed. We are sure that Jeremy Corbyn opposes cuts to public services and we are being asked to support him in that by fighting from the inside as an affiliated union. Yet a Labour councillor, Rachel Heywood, has had the Labour whip withdrawn for doing exactly that! Jeremy Corbyn's leadership has not been able to prevent the local party from standing a pro-cuts candidate against her. An affiliated RMT would be prevented from supporting people like Rachel as it would involve going against the official Labour candidate. Fighting from the inside would not be an option.

The vast majority of RMT members in Scotland are vehemently opposed to affiliation to Labour. The argument that Scottish branches would not have to affiliate is not helpful. Scottish branches would NOT be able to support socialists against Blairite Labour candidates. To affiliate would be to completely abandon our Scottish members.

Members point out the disappointing lack of content in the discussion paper released by the Labour party. We are told that it is simply an outline and details can be worked out later. Would we accept such an answer in any other context? If an employer gave us a vague written promise that we would get better pay and conditions, would we commit to that and work out the details later? Of course not!

Further promises and details are being mentioned in online and branch debates. We are told that there will be a seat on Labour's NEC for an RMT member. But nobody can make that promise now! Election to the NEC is just that! When challenged, such promises are retracted but are then repeated in other forums. We must be absolutely clear: the only influence over Labour policy that RMT members will have is what is contained in the discussion document. Promises and pledges made in online posts and in speeches are worth nothing. Many RMT members are already active in the Labour Party. Being in an affiliated union makes hardly a scrap of difference, you still have only one vote in your CLP!

We are told that the reason that the last Labour manifesto did not promise to scrap Driver Only Operation (DOO) and all anti-union laws was because RMT did not have a seat at the table. Really? We have enough faith in Corbyn to believe that those items would have been in the manifesto if the choice was his. The truth is that he would not be able to get them past the Blairite machine that still holds power. An affiliated RMT could not make that magically disappear.

We are a members led union. Our members, especially those in Scotland, do not want to change our political strategy. Many believe that the Blair/Mandelson project of turning Labour into a bosses party may be reversible. The 2017 election manifesto (influenced as much by the non-affiliated RMT as any of the affiliated unions) enabled many of us to vote with hope and positivity for the first time in decades. There is hope for the future. However, the case of Rachel Heywood and the plight of our Scots members shows that affiliation at this time would tie our hands and prevent us from pushing the very changes that we need. We are stronger outside. We must keep our current political strategy.

Tubeworker topics

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