In The Dark

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 08/14/2009 - 11:27

It seems that there may have been a breakthrough on the issue of compulsory redundancies and fresh talks at ACAS on pay - read RMT's circular here. However, details are as yet unclear. The shortage of definite information about what is going on with our dispute has been causing frustration among rank-and-file RMT activists.

While the real villains of the piece are obviously LUL management - helped by the do-nothing leaderships of the other unions - RMT's national leadership has let members and activists down by allowing the dispute to become clouded by uncertainty. The situation has shown once again that we need our disputes to be run more democratically.

RMT was dead right to go into this dispute, and to fight hard and promptly for the crucial issues of jobs, pay and justice. It is to the great shame of the other unions' leaders that they did not do the same. But RMT's national leadership has allowed momentum to drain from the campaign. When the ballot result came in, they refused to even consider a request from all branches in the region to listen to members at a mass meeting before deciding the first strike dates, and have since allowed the ballot mandate for 'action short of strikes' to lapse so that we no longer had the option of, say, an overtime ban. RMT's 29 July deadline to management to make concessions or face more strikes came and went with no declaration from head office. And just last week, it seems that the Executive agreed to announce new strike dates on Tuesday, but for three days after that, nothing was announced and there was no explanation.

Tubeworker would not claim that there has been 100%, universal, gung-ho, straining-at-the-leash enthusiasm among Tube workers for more and more strike dates. Workers feel under pressure and enthusiasm varies between different locations and grades. However, RMT members did vote 85%+ for strikes; June's strike was well-supported and effective; and while we did need to take some time afterwards to allow talks another chance and to reaffirm the issues and address weaker areas, we did not need to take this long, nor to slump into quietness. Rank-and-file activists have worked really hard to keep the pot boiling and keep workers informed - but without updates or decisions from head office, that effort becomes difficult and feels unsupported.

We can guess what is coming: Momentum has gone out of the fight, and those who caused the momentum to go out of the fight will say that we have to step back from taking more action.

If RMT has saved its members from compulsory redundancy, that is obviously a big win: and a proof that you only win by fighting, a lesson that the other unions should learn. But it is not the end of our battle. LUL's pay offer is miserably inadequate, its managers continue to bully staff, jobs are still under threat. It is time to think strategically about the next steps in pursuing this fight. Priority number one is that it be rank-and-file led, without secrecy and momentum-draining procrastination from those who insist on running the dispute on our behalf.

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