TUC blog: Two RMT motions - rail safety and Europe

Submitted by Janine on Fri, 09/16/2005 - 20:14

First, our emergency motion on rail safety. Recently, the companies responsible for the Hatfield crash got away with murder when Britain's existing piss-weak corporate manslaughter law failed to nail them. On September 6th, the courts added insult to death and injury by clearing Network Rail and Balfour Beatty bosses.

Apparently, the 'justice' system could not identify the individual bosses responsible. But as Bob Crow pointed out in proposing the motion, the same bosses have no problem identifying themselves when it is time to hand out the whopping bonuses.

The motion also asked the TUC to reaffirm its policy that the railways should be brought back into public ownership, and to support RMT's fight against the re-privatisation of South East Trains.

The union is balloting its members on this issue and asked for support from Congress. And it was that point which the notoriously 'moderate' ie. ineffective TSSA had a problem with.

TSSA tried to get RMT to change the word 'dispute' to 'issue', and whined that they didn't want to be excluded from talks just because they had every intention of scabbing on the strike. Unmoved, we stuck by the wording, and TSSA did not have the stomach to vote the motion down. It was passed unanimously.

Jack Dromey (T&G) seconded it, carefully avoiding any mention of the strike, but fiercely criticising the law. He pointed out that on average, one person per day is killed at work in Britain; 10,000 over 30 years; but in that time, only 5 bosses have been jailed.

The TUC General Council gave their usual endorsement to the motion, stating that South East Trains privatisation "makes no sense" (oooh, tough talking). But they also said that "industrial tactics are a matter for the union concerned", which sounded very much like "we will not lift a finger to support the strike".
In any case, if industrial tactics are a matter for the union concerned, why did the TUC top brass muscle in on an RMT Tube strike in 2001, doing their best to get the union to call it off, then, having failed, told the Evening Standard that we should not be striking?

RMT had submitted ordinary motions on the Trade Union Freedom Bill and the EU constitution. The first of these was included in the composite on Fairness at Work which was debated on Monday morning. The latter came up on the final morning of Congress, partly, it appeared, because the TUC bureaucracy were stalling.

Now, I'll state from the outset that personally, I do not agree with our union's policy on the EU and its constitution. I would not vote No in a referendum on either the Euro or the constitution, I'd abstain and go out campaigning for a workers' Europe instead of a bosses' Europe. I think that the 'No' campaign, however left a face you put on it, plays into the hands of the right. European integration is a good thing - we should fight over how it is done, not whether it is done.

Nevertheless, I was in Brighton to represent the union and there is no question that I would support its motion. And actually, its content (click here and scroll down) made it possible to support, even from my stance. Its opposition to the constitution was based on its rejection by the referenda in France and the Netherlands, so posed it as a question of democracy. I do not share the movers' belief that the result of those referenda was a cause for celebration (with Beaujolais and Edam cheese, in Bob Crow's case), but the results are what they are.

The alternative position was an amendment from Community. On first reading, it seemed OK, but as soon as their speaker opened his mouth, I felt a lot better about being mandated to vote against it! He was straightforwardly pro-EU, and spent the whole speech praising its myriad achievements for workers and making crumbs sound like crocks of gold.

I want this debate to be not about whether you are think the EU is perfect or from hell, but an independent view of fighting for the best possible Europe for workers. Whilst not perfect (in my personal view), the RMT's motion was closer to that than Community's amendment.

The General Council - who had earlier filibustered the debate in an unsuccessful attempt to pressurise RMT into accepting Community's amendment - said that it was up to Congress how to vote on the amendment, but please vote for the motion. Congress defeated the amendment and passed the motion.

By the way, I'm home now. I'll do one more post covering bits, bobs and some kind of summary of TUC Congress, then it's back to blogging from the real world.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/18/2005 - 20:13

nice one janine, you would abstain from any eu referendum but voted for the motion on it. mmmm rmt member

Submitted by Janine on Sun, 09/18/2005 - 22:37

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I was a delegate from the RMT, so vote in line with union policy. I have no problem with doing that. But I am still entitled to personal opinions.

In any case, the resolution was not about how we should vote, or campaign, in a referendum in Britain. It was about it having been defeated in two referenda already, being pretty bad for working people in content, and therefore should not be imposed. I have no problem with that either.