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National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT)

Rail union RMT responds to Jo Johnson speech

By Mick Cash - RMT, February 12, 2018

General Secretary Mick Cash said:

"If you were serious about cracking on with the phasing out of diesel trains you wouldn't be scrapping key ele‎ctrification projects which will mean the commissioning of more diesel operated fleet. That scrapping of long-planned electrification rail works by Chris Grayling makes a mockery of Jo Johnson's "aspiration" to scrap diesel units by 2040.

"There is also the question of who pays for this. There must be no free ride for Britain's rip-off private rail companies at the tax payers expense.

"The bottom line is that if we hadn't had over two decades of privatisation and profiteering on Britain's railways we wouldn't have ended up jammed in the slow lane. The money siphoned off by the spivs and speculators would have enabled us to keep pace and build a railway fit for purpose.

"Instead of promises of jam tomorrow we need to tackle the crisis on Britain's railways today and that means a planned service, publicly owned and free from the exploitation that has left the British passenger paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on clapped out, rammed out and unreliable trains where private profit comes before public safety."

Trade unions in the UK engagement with climate change

By Catherine Hookes - Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group, August 15, 2017

Despite being faced with many immediate battles to fight, it is to the credit of many trade unions that they are also addressing the long term wellbeing of their members, and of future generations, by introducing policies to tackle climate change. A new report providing the first ever overview of the climate change policies of 17 major UK trade unions could help raise wider awareness of this important work.

The author, Catherine Hookes, is studying for a masters degree at Lund University, Sweden, and her research drew on a comprehensive web review of policies in these unions, going into more depth for many of the unions, interviewing key figures and activists. The research was facilitated by the Campaign against Climate Change.

For anyone within the trade union movement concerned about climate change (or for campaigners wishing to engage with trade unions on these issues) this report is of practical use in understanding the context, the diversity of different trade unions' approaches, and the progress that has been made in the campaign for a just transition to a low carbon economy.

While every attempt was made to ensure the report is comprehensive, and accurately reflects union positions, there are clearly controversies and different viewpoints over issues such as fracking and aviation. Trade unions with members in carbon intensive industries will always have a challenging task in addressing climate change, but their engagement in this issue is vital. And, of course, this is a rapidly changing field. It is very encouraging that since the report was written, Unison has voted to campaign for pension fund divestment. This is an important step in making local authority pension funds secure from the risk (both financial and moral) of fossil fuel investment.

Anyone attending TUC congress this September is welcome to join us at our fringe meeting, 'Another world is possible: jobs and a safe climate', to take part in the ongoing discussion on the role of trade unions in tackling climate change.

Read the text (PDF).

RMT union puts anarchist in charge of London

By anonymous - Freedom, January 15, 2017

Freedom has received the following, written by an anonymous railway worker with the RMT union

At the beginning of this year the RMT elected Andy Littlechild (pictured right), a longstanding anarchist and member of the Solidarity Federation (Solfed), to the RMT union’s National Executive Council as its London transport representative.

The role, which lasts for three years, takes responsibility for the entire battlezone of London Underground including trains, stations, engineers, all ancillary staff and contracted companies, along with Transport for London, Docklands Light Railway, Black Cabs and even Boris Bikes.

Andy, who’s worked for many years as a Tube track worker and union rep, stood unopposed for the position and was duly elected after receiving nominations from every RMT branch in the constituency. His unopposed win was generally linked to Andy’s perceived militancy and non-sectarian approach to organising, which endeared him to RMT’s London activist base and gave him a clear run.

Being elected in this way is not without its downside as it meant there was no election involving the members; and is equally controversial given a general trend of anarchist disdain for full-time union positions, not least within SolFed itself, which bars full-time union officers from membership.

Ed’s note: SolFed, and other anarchist groups, see trade union bureaucracy as taking agency out of the hands of workers and transferring it to people who are not at the site of, or affected by, the struggle taking place. The full-timer’s wages and community ties are linked to a national-level body removed from direct struggle, and their role is therefore based on what’s best for the institution, rather than the workers.
(For more on SolFed and anarcho-syndicalist thinking, try Fighting For Ourselves online|book)

Whether Andy’s decision to engage with the RMT’s executive will be productive or not is yet to be seen. The test will be in how and whether he manages to preserve his class-based anarchist politics in practice against the relentless industrial and political warfare in London, especially on the Tube where he has walked straight into the bitter, escalating dispute and strike activity around staffing stations, as well as several smaller skirmishes which are developing there as I write — and how Andy preserves his politics likewise in his dealings within the hierarchy of the RMT.

One thing we can say is only the RMT would put a known anarchist in charge of London.

Edit: There is one other union which has elected an openly anarchist member to a major position in recent times — Donnacha DeLong was president of the National Union of Journalists from 2011-12 and still sits on its NEC.

Solidarity with striking North Sea oil workers

Greg Muttitt - Oil Change International, July 26, 2016

Today 400 workers on Shell platforms in the UK North Sea went on strike. On behalf of our more than 100,000 supporters, Oil Change International stands in solidarity with these workers.

The striking workers are employed by Wood Group, a contractor to Shell and one of the largest service companies in the North Sea. After two rounds of layoffs, Wood Group sought to unilaterally impose pay cuts of up to 30%, added an additional four to five weeks’ work annually, extended work shifts, and imposed restrictive new limitations on leave. The Unite and RMT trade unions both voted overwhelmingly to go on strike against these harmful changes in pay and conditions.

Oil companies have long ridden roughshod over workers, communities, and the environment. At Oil Change International, we see the fight for fair treatment of oil workers as a critical part of the wider global struggle for responsible, just, and clean energy production.

Everyone has the right to safe working conditions and fair pay. The drop in the oil price is no excuse for highly profitable fossil fuel companies to pass the costs onto workers. As Unite Regional Officer John Boland put it, “For decades, oil and gas companies across the North Sea have made hay while the sun shone and become very profitable on the back of the hard work and dedication of our members. Now that the weather has turned for the industry, they are using the downturn to attack the pay, terms, and conditions of our members.”

We continue to strive for a future in which energy industry workers enjoy decent and stable jobs in a clean energy economy, and are not tied to the profiteering whims of Big Oil. We wish the striking workers every success in holding Wood Group to account and demanding a fair deal.

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