Off The Rails October 2004

Off The Rails - Autumn 2004

'Off The Rails' is a platform for rank-and-file rail workers, published by Workers' Liberty.

The Autumn 2004 OTR includes articles about:

Rail workers, trade unions and politics

Working people probably have less faith in politicians now than ever before. Election turnouts have hit a new low, especially amongst young people. It is harder and harder to tell the difference between the policies of the main parties. The Tories privatised the mainline, Labour privatised the Tube.

So why should we bother with politics? Because it is too important to be to be left to politicians. Political decisions affect our working lives (privatisation, health and safety legislation) and our lives outside work (the health service, pensions, our kids' education, …).

RRVs: Killers on the track

At Tebay last February, four track workers were killed by a runaway trailer from a badly-maintained road-rail vehicle (RRV). At Hednesford in September, two workers were killed riding on a RRV. Other incidents - including at Stockport, Hayle in Cornwall, and Shieldmuir near Motherwell - have seen injuries or near misses. These 'accidents' will inevitably be followed by others as long as the engineering companies are allowed to put profit before lives.

Profit before safety

EWS: Groundstaff Fight Jobs Threat

EWS is on a crusade to introduce a new driver restructuring initiative. Most traincrew will be familiar with these - drivers' pay goes up, but with it comes extra duties, more anti-social hours, worse conditions, and wholesale attacks on other grades.

EWS is touting an offer of £40k + £5k in bonuses for drivers. But that is for a 45-hour week, with drivers taking on rolling stock technicians' duties, train preparation and other work. The train crew Company Council reps - and the drivers - have rejected this.

Getting Away With Murder

The Off The Rails quiz

Following the Potters Bar crash, who got £1 million bonuses?
(a) Jarvis’ directors?
(b) relatives of the dead?

And who got £10,000 each?
(a) Jarvis’ directors?
(b) relatives of the dead?

For which of the following fatal rail crashes has anyone been successfully prosecuted?
(a) Ladbroke Grove?
(b) Hatfield?
(c) Potters Bar?
(d) Selby?
[answer: (d), because they managed to pin it on an ordinary bloke rather than a company]

The Fantasy Union of Railworkers

Off The Rails has a vision of railway trade unionism which we believe would be more effective that what we have now. We have a document which sets this out in detail - a kind of OTR manifesto.

You can read the full version here. If you agree with us, join us in working to make it a reality.

To whet your appetite, here are some extracts ...


Support Iraqi trade unions

Amidst the brutality of occupied Iraq, a new labour movement is growing - independent trade unions, unemployed movements, women's organisations, and working-class political parties.

In oilfields, oil refineries, railways and factories, workers have organised trade unions and won victories by removing Ba'thist managers or improving wages.

Iraq’s labour movement has different groups with different views. But all the main groups agree that:

Steve Hedley: standing up for agency workers

Railway engineering tester Steve Hedley has been sacked - in a case which shows how vulnerable agency staff are.

Several years ago, Steve used to work for GTRM at Euston, but was stitched up and sacked in 1998. Management victimised him because of his effective work as an RMT rep, and a union campaign was unable to win his reinstatement.

London Underground: pay fight goes off the rails

RMT's 2004 pay claim for London Underground was for an above-inflation pay rise, a 35-hour week for all staff, and a minimum salary for station assistants of £22,000. The cost of living in London is soaring, and our demand for shorter working hours has been outstanding for years. Management reckoned they "couldn't afford" the claim, but they could afford to discuss it in a posh hotel. And while there is “no money" for us, there is enough money to give Bob Kiley up to £½million per year and a £2m house!

Two Jags

Honest John here, proud of my working-class roots, even more proud of my posh cars.

Years ago, I used to bang on about renationalising the railway. Won us a few votes, that did, but I always knew it was, erm, impractical, old-fashioned or whatever. Basically, the fat cats wouldn't have it, and who can blame them, eh?

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