Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 5 September, 2019 - 7:45 Author: Sacha Ismail and Ollie Moore

Tube union RMT suspended strikes planned by drivers on London Underground’s Central and Victoria Lines on 3-4 September, after bosses made a number of concessions.

The issues at the heart of the dispute include authoritarian management culture on both lines, and driver numbers on the Central Line particularly.

The union remains in dispute and activists say strikes should be reinstated if management renege on agreements.

Plans for TUC congress

At the time of writing discussions are taking place among labour movement anti-coup people about activities at the 2019 TUC Congress (8-11 September, in Brighton).

They’re working on emergency motions (not straightforward as they can only be submitted by national unions), a lobby or demonstration, and an unofficial fringe meeting.

One issue delegates will discuss is the right to strike. Like the bulk of its constituent unions, the TUC has policy for repeal of the anti-union laws but it is dormant. In line with the Labour leadership’s stance, most workers’ rights motions submitted this year talk only about collective bargaining.

But a strong motion from the Fire Brigades Union modelled on the demands of the Free Our Unions campaign is on the order paper. On 10 September, the FBU is holding an official fringe meeting alongside Free Our Unions, with speakers including FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, UCU general secretary Jo Grady and an outsourced PCS striker from BEIS.

The UCU has also submitted a motion to the Congress supporting the school student climate strikes and arguing for the TUC to call a “30-minute workday solidarity stoppage” alongside them on 20 September.

There will be a number of debates on responses to climate change, including calls from the Bakers’ Union for public ownership of energy and from the FBU for public ownership of the banks and finance.

There are some distinctly less left-wing contributions from Unite and the GMB on the same issue.

South Yorkshire couriers strike

On Friday 30 August, Deliveroo couriers went on strike for 2 hours at peak time in Sheffield, at the same time as a Deliveroo strike in Australia – the two strikes shared the same central demand.

Organised through the South Yorkshire Couriers’ Network (SYCN), which had been set up in late July with the assistance of the local branch of Workers’ Liberty and the support of activists in the IWGB trade union, the couriers have set their sights on tackling unfair parking charges and Deliveroo’s global pay cut.

Issued a few days before the formation of SYCN, Deliveroo’s new pay policy abolishes the previous £4.25-per-delivery minimum. The company claims that this is compensated by higher pay for drivers who select longer or more arduous deliveries, but its real effect is to cut earnings and make the Deliveroo pay system more opaque.

Deliveries which previously would have fetched £4.25 are now being made for as little as £3. The same abolition of the minimum rate has sparked protests in other countries. On 30 August, there was a 2-hour strike in Geelong, Australia. Sheffield drivers sent messages of solidarity to their Australian brothers and sisters. The following day, a pay strike took place among Deliveroo couriers in France.

The Sheffield strike was a test of strength for the new union. Following the pattern of French strikes, the couriers split into teams to patrol restaurant districts and encourage other couriers to join the strike. Feverish preparation and a spirit of unity meant that the union passed the test, effectively shutting down takeaway trade on payday Friday.

Orders backed up across town and some kitchens stopped production; and strikers recruited several new hires to the SYCN.

Mick Cash re-elected in RMT

Mick Cash was re-elected general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT), seeing off a challenge from Sean Hoyle, the union’s former national president. Cash won 9,312 votes to Hoyle’s 6,372, representing a turnout of 20% of the RMT’s membership.

Hoyle’s insurgent, grassroots campaign did well to garner a sizeable vote against an incumbent candidate backed by almost the entirety of the union’s officialdom. It articulated a more radical, democratic, and militant vision for the union than Cash’s “business-as-usual”, “steady-pair-of-hands” pitch, emphasising rank-and-file leadership and the empowerment of the union’s equalities committees. Hoyle also committed not to take the full general secretary salary of over £90,000, promising to donate £30,000 back to the union’s fighting fund.

The energy of the Hoyle campaign must now be channelled into an ongoing effort to fight for democratic transformation within the union, by consolidating into a rank-and-file network.

An embryonic Campaign for a Fighting, Democratic Union within RMT, which came together prior to the national presidential election in 2018, can help progress such efforts.

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