Here's an awkward situation. Imagine that you are the union rep for a particular workplace (or group of workplaces). Your union accepts a crap pay offer: you disagree with it doing this. But there is another union in the workplace which is significantly worse, and which accepted the same pay offer when it was marginally even crapper several months ago. Your members are demoralised due to your union's climbdown, and the other union is trying to make hay with this and sign some of them up.
It's not hypothetical. The specifics are: me; London Underground Bank group of stations; RMT; TSSA. Here's the report that I have circulated around the workplaces.
As you probably know by now, RMT’s National Executive has decided to accept LUL’s pay offer and not go ahead with strike action.
The good news is that all staff will now receive our pay rise - and our back pay - in the March 28th pay packet. The bad news is that the deal is well short of what we wanted and what staff deserve.
So how did this decision come about?
After the whopping 76% vote for strike action, RMT's London Transport Regional Council discussed the situation on Thursday 22nd February. In the run-up to that meeting, I went round all our group’s stations asking what members thought the union should do. The big majority wanted immediate and effective strike action - and I put the case for this to the Regional Council meeting.
Some other reps argued the same view. But others - the majority - said that members in their area did not want to strike (even though they had just voted to), because:
- the other two unions would work during the strike, reducing its effectiveness;
- they were upset about members of other unions getting the pay rise while they did not;
- the whole thing had gone on too long and they wanted it resolved.
The following day, a meeting of RMT Functional Council reps - from stations, trains, service control and admin - agreed unanimously to recommend to the Executive that it call off the dispute and accept the offer.
I know that many members (myself included) are disappointed by this, feeling that we had come too far to give up now.
I am not going to pretend that the deal is good - especially as I told you it was rubbish two weeks ago! But RMT’s strike ballot at least forced Ken Livingstone to withdraw later running (for now), so we will not be working until 2am from May with no door-to-door staff taxis home, which TSSA had accepted!
Some TSSA members are trying to exploit this situation and mock RMT members. Do not stand for this. Ever since they accepted the pay offer, TSSA has been working hand-in-glove with management to isolate and defeat RMT, and to attack your right to a pay rise. Their attempt to get the pay rise just for their own members is unprecedented in the trade union movement, and a terrible breach of basic solidarity.
RMT members can accuse our union leaders of a ‘climbdown’ if we like, but we are not taking that from TSSA - who never even climbed up in the first place. It is very odd that TSSA seems to think it can recruit RMT members out of the current situation, when its only boast is that TSSA sold out six months earlier than the other unions!
Management have been able to exploit the weakness of the other unions and the fact that the Tube workforce is divided into different unions. We would all be in a much better position if we were united in one, all-grades union. With no immediate prospect of the unions merging, we need to build RMT as strong as possible. Encourage your workmates to join.
Even if you think that RMT has let us down on this occasion, do not respond by getting demoralised - instead, get more involved! The more rank-and-file members are active in the union, the more the leadership has to listen to us and act on what we want.
Remember, RMT remains:
- the only all-grades union on the Tube
- by far the biggest union on this group and in the railway industry, and the fastest-growing union in the country
- the union that is leading the fight on Bank group on the issues that matter to you - fighting to increase staffing levels, improve staff accommodation, improve the treatment of reserve staff, and lots more besides
- the best source of representation and information for staff on this group.
If this comment appears to make little sense, it is because it was posted in reply to another comment which has since been deleted for reasons unknown to me.
In a workplace where the other union was basically OK, or a little bit worse, I'd agree with you. But on LUL stations, the two unions are RMT and TSSA. Not only is TSSA not an all-grades union, it is also management-dominated, *never* strikes (I think the last time was 1926, when it was still called the Railway Clerks Association), and allows its members to scab (indeed, some of its reps do overtime on RMT strike days).
Nevertheless, I am happy to work with TSSA on workplace issues, and try to go to management with a common front with TSSA. We also have the joint RMT-TSSA campaign against East London Line privatisation.
But if one union is head-and-shoulder better than the other one, we should tell the truth about it, and build the better one.
Additionally, in this case, I am trying to fend off attempts by TSSA to use a reactionary stance to recruit RMT members.