I've been at it again - up on the rostrum shooting my mouth off. Oh well, the members elected me to come here and speak up for them, not just to give me a week's break by the seaside.
This morning, we had the delights of Gordon Brown's speech - about which more later. Then we had a parade of workers who had played their part on 7th and 21st July - including firefighters, paramedics, the two bus drivers, and Underground station supervisors.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber introduced a statement from the General Council about the terror attacks, and delegates then got to speak. This is what I said:
My name is Janine Booth. I’m a delegate from the RMT, and I work as a Station Supervisor on the Piccadilly Line on London Underground.
I’d like to thank Congress for its acknowledgement of the work of London Underground and other workers on 7th and 21st July.
But I also have some bad news for congress. I have to tell you that
- despite the bombings
- despite the near-certainty of further attacks
- despite the essential role of staff in saving lives
- despite the reassurance and protection that passengers get from visible staff on stations
Despite all of these things, London Underground management is planning to cut staffing levels on our stations.
Tube station staff will soon achieve at last our long-awaited, hard-fought-for, 35-hour week. But management are trying to pay for this by cutting staffing rather than through public funding.
On the stations where I work and am the union rep, the company plans to cut station supervisors and station assistants. The effect will be:
- Reduced safety
- Worse customer service
- And increased workload and stress for the remaining staff.
Our message to our employer and the government has to be: don’t praise us, only to attack us.
If Gordon Brown really respected Underground workers as he says he does, then he and his government would reverse the Public-Private Partnership, fund the Underground, and stop these staffing cuts.
When I told my workmates that I was coming to TUC Congress, they said to me - "Tell them about what LUL is doing, tell them about the cuts in staffing levels. Ask them to support our fight." That's why I have come up here today.
We ask all your unions and the TUC to support the Underground unions' fight against these staffing cuts.
If the employer presses ahead with these cuts and forces us to take strike action to defend your safety and our working conditions, we hope that we will see you on our picket lines.
And we hope that the media, the government and the Mayor of London will remember that Underground workers are heroes, instead of treating us as villains as they have done in previous strikes.
I should add that Ruth Winters, President of the Fire Brigades Union, also made a speech berating Brown for praising workers whilst attacking them. "You called us friends", she said, "but friends don't do to the Fire Service what you are doing." She pointed out that London's Manchester Square fire station had closed shortly before the July bombings, and 180 central London firefighters' jobs were lost. Now, the government and its lackeys in management are pressing ahead with the regionalisation of fire control rooms, which will cost both jobs and lives.
Needless to say, the General Council's statement was passed unanimously. We like workers and we don't like bombs. There was some discussion about the link between the bombings and the Iraq war, but I think I'll blog about that later, perhaps after Wednesday evening's fringe meeting in solidarity with Iraqi trade unions.