If you are an RMT member, you will soon be receiving a voting paper for the election of a new General Secretary (GS).
You have the choice of four candidates, and Tubeworker recommends that you vote for John Leach, who is currently our Regional Organiser and has been nominated by seven of our Region’s branches, along with 15 more from elsewhere in the country.
Sometimes it may seem like it doesn’t really matter who holds the post of GS, as the union carries on doing its everyday work whoever is at the helm. At other times, it seems almost too important, when the GS is portrayed as an all-powerful union chief.
It does matter, and it is important that you vote.
The GS strongly influences – although the Executive decides – how we campaign, what demands we make, what action we take. We need a General Secretary who wants to fight for the best for workers, and who can build meaningful, effective action because they listen to and involve rank-and-file members. We don’t need a GS who holds us back, and neither do we want a GS who thinks that he always knows best.
We have huge battles with our employers on their way, and the candidate who matches what we need most closely is John Leach. Crucially, John knows that genuine militancy is measured by how effectively you build union strength in the workplace rather than how angry you get or how loudly you shout.
When we battle our employers, the GS puts our case to the public. When you see your union represented by the GS on the TV, you want to feel confident that the union is on your side, is up for the fight, and can put its case clearly and convincingly.
Many of the decent conditions that we have, we have won through hard-fought battles – and John Leach has been at the head of many of these. LUL staff have a “job for life” - i.e., a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, because of a 2001 dispute in which John as our NEC member resisted calls from union officials to accept less than we eventually won, and stood alongside us when we went out on strike alongside ASLEF even though a court had banned RMT’s action.
John led the charge to get TubeLines workers’ pensions returned to the TfL pension scheme, to stop the employer’s attempt to cut the frequency of train preparation, and to save hundreds of the stations jobs that management tried to abolish.
He has also achieved important wins with and for sections of our workforce who are marginalised and less secure than directly-employed LUL staff. At the start of the pandemic, John successfully insisted that cleaners receive 100% sick and isolation pay, and went on to coordinate the union’s efforts to stop compulsory redundancies of canteen staff, again was successfully.
In an election where we are once again faced with a choice only between white men, we can at least pick the one with the best record on equalities. Again, that is John Leach. John has committed to supporting moves to empower our equalities committees, giving women, BEM members, LGBT+ members, and disabled members greater representation within the union.
Before becoming a union officer, John had worked on London Underground stations since he was 18. He has pledged not to accept the pay rise that comes with the GS’s job, because he doesn’t believe union officers should be paid salaries vastly in excess of what most members earn. John has an understanding of and commitment to representing the interests of rank-and-file members like us that is unmatched by the other candidates.
No candidate is perfect, and Tubeworker doesn’t agree with John on every issue. Whoever wins the election, RMT members will need independent rank-and-file organisation to hold officers to account and build a fighting, democratic trade unionism from the workplace up. But who our officers are can make a big difference to whether grassroots efforts to build that kind of trade unionism are encouraged and supporter, or obstructed.
John Leach will be a General Secretary who supports it.
IF YOUR BALLOT PAPER HASN’T ARRIVED BY 8 MARCH, CALL THE UNION TO ARRANGE A REPLACEMENT: 0800 376 3706