Although we live in a (relatively) democratic society, that democracy ends almost entirely at the workplace. We are told what to do by managers no-one elected, paid vastly inflated salaries they decided amongst themselves. The only means by which workers (the people who really make society run) have ever been able to impose even minimal levels of democratic functioning into the workplace has been via our unions, which we have forced management to recognise, giving us structures through which to elect workplace representatives.
The process of electing our reps, therefore, is precious: a tiny incursion of democracy into the daily dictatorship of capital over labour. And on LU stations, it is currently under attack.
RMT currently has 51 "industrial relations" reps across LU stations, elected democratically through our union branches. This is a number agreed historically between the union and the company. It was always higher than the number of station groups, because it was accepted that on areas with particularly high numbers of RMT members, more than one rep was necessary.
Now LU has decided that it will only recognise 37 reps, one for each station "Cover Group". It has unilaterally de-recognised 14 reps, a direct attack on our union, which disenfranchises the members who voted for them and who they represent.
A reduction in the level of representation is obviously in the bosses' interests. It reduces the corps of people whose job it is to organise workers against them, and serves to remind us who's in charge. It also hits particular groups of workers harder, as without additional reps' posts it is much harder for part-time or Night Tube staff to stand for election.
This unilateral de-recognition undermines what little democracy we have in the workplace: effectively, in the 14 areas with two reps, it is the company telling us who our reps will be, rather than us electing them ourselves.
RMT reps on Company Council are arguing against management's manoeuvre, but negotiation is unlikely to be enough. We all know the challenges facing any attempt to ballot for industrial action following the imposition of the Trade Union Act, but we must explore all means available to us to resist this attack. If a combine-wide ballot is decided against, local industrial action ballots in the affected areas should be considered.