By a rail worker
The RMT’s Annual General Meeting, meeting in Dublin on 2-7 July, will discuss what the union has described as the “pensions crisis” facing rail workers. Despite a 76% vote for strike action, the executive has decided not to set strike dates and instead accept the employers’ proposal for a “tripartite commission” — one union representative, one employer and an “independent chair” — to find a solution.
The union had previously rejected this proposal, and with good reason. ‘Independent’ chairs are typically just bosses’ representatives in disguise, and are unlikely to take the union’s side in a dispute. Moreover, such an approach ignores the fact that there are, naturally, major differences between the union’s demands and the employers’, differences which cannot be resolved through polite discussion. And although talks with employers are not in themselves illegitimate, to suspend strike action when the bosses have made no major concessions can only demobilise and demoralise members.
In addition, as an emergency motion to the AGM from East Midlands Central points out, “it is likely that the duration of this commission will be considerable and during this time our pension rights will continue to be eroded”. The employers have threatened to unilaterally introduce contributions hikes on 1 July: and the demobilisation of the union while the commission sits will mean these attacks become a done deal. Industrial action before 1 July could have stopped the bosses in their tracks; instead, it is the union that is now on the defensive.
The executive has pointed out repeatedly that our strike mandate “remains live”. If we are to get this dispute back on the rails, we need to force them to take that seriously.