RMT’s stations membership have voted by about 5:1 (1,250ish to 250ish) to accept the deal brokered by LUL management and the union’s leadership. In doing so, it has ended the dispute over the staffing cuts, and those cuts will now go ahead.
So, why did members vote to give up this fight? A few reasons:
- Not enough information had gone around the job telling people what was going on with the cuts. Some people voted Yes because the rosters for their location are OK and they don’t know how bad they are elsewhere.
- Members feel demoralised by the mistakes made over the last year, the hostile media coverage, and the PR hari-kari of striking on New Year’s Eve.
- When we act as a united, coherent, confident workforce, then there is a strong sense of solidarity that makes people stick up for their colleagues as well as themselves. But when the union starts to back down and show weakness, then that breaks down the solidarity and people are more inclined to vote in their own narrow interests, and so vote Yes if they do not personally lose out under the new rosters.
- When you have not been involved in running a dispute, or kept informed of its progress, then you often don’t feel up to judging a deal yourself, and accept the recommendation of your leadership.
- Voting No meant voting to step up strike action, knowing that action would be led by a leadership which did not want to fight. Some of us voted No anyway, but it is understandable why others did not.
- We have been fighting for a 35-hour-week for years, people are running out of patience, so some people were prepared to accept it at a greater cost that we should have had to.
Where does this leave us? Down, but not quite out. There will now be another look at the rosters, and a ‘safety validation’ process. Management probably intend to simply go through the motions with these, and just give us a handful of posts back as a token gesture, feeling that the pressure from the union is now off. If we can find ways of putting some pressure on, then maybe we can force their hand to concede more.
Reps and activists will also need to counter anti-union sentiment from some people on the job, and persuade people to stay in the union and fight. It is worth remembering that while RMT may have messed up the fight against staffing cuts, it has won us a 35-hour week, with 52 days off each year, and the TSSA, through its spineless inactivity, has not only won us nothing, but has actively helped management.
We also need to identify where the unions went wrong in this campaign, learn the lessons, and fight for changes that will ensure that it does not make these mistakes again. About which Tubeworker will blog over the weekend!