Weak Leadership from Unions in Pay Fight

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 12/02/2009 - 16:42

It’s a good job that Tube workers and rank-and-file union reps are up for a fight about pay - because it does not look much like our union leaders are. First, TSSA accept the paltry, pay-cutting offer, then ASLEF’s leaders overturn the decision of their own reps’ meeting and recommend it in a referendum. Now RMT’s leaders send out ‘Vote Yes’ publicity for the union’s industrial action ballot which could not be more lukewarm if it tried.

Monday morning’s text message began ‘New offer received from company in pay dispute’, leading many members to believe that LUL had put more money on the table, when it most definitely has not. The only ‘new’ offer is an extension of the inadequate medical redeployment offer. Then comes the letter with the ballot papers, which suggests we vote Yes, *if* we think we deserve better pay. There should be no need for ifs or buts - we *do* deserve better pay, and our union leaders (who got a 2.5% pay rise this year) should tell us that they think so too. Oh, and we once again have the falsehood repeated that LU’s offer on medical redeployment guarantees any a job - it doesn’t.

However, despite this woolliness from up top, RMT members are voting Yes/Yes for industrial action (nor forgetting to vote Yes twice, so we have a mandate for both strikes and action short of strikes), and ASLEF members are busily voting No in the Society’s referendum. So the leaderships’ desire for a peaceful New Year may yet not come true.

It all goes to show that when trade union leaders are not prepared to lead a fight (in TSSA or ASLEF’s case - in RMT’s case, it’s more like prepared only to lead in a half-cocked way), then the rank and file must. This year, when rank-and-file workers have had any control over the pay and jobs fight, then it has gone quite well and made progress. When head offices have taken the reins, it has slowed down and lost direction and momentum.

One answer is to elect better leaders. But elections are some way off, and in any case, we have seen many people get into leadership and take up bureaucratic practices that they would have forcefully denounced previously! So we need more than better leaders - we need the rank-and-file to get organised, to assert ourselves, develop our confidence and strategies and make our leaders do what the members want them to. Tubeworker is a forum for doing just this - please email us if you would like to come to our meetings or get more involved.