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RMT: national conference and tube dispute
Union plans transport shutdowns
Transport union RMT prepared for London shutdowns and First Great Western railway strikes at its national conference, the 'annual general meeting' (AGM), on 21 to 26 June. After workplace victories and a reaffirmed political strategy, the union faces major clashes on the tube and new anti-union laws.
Underground strikes loom
London Underground bosses are trying to rush through 24-hour service on Fridays and Saturdays, starting September, without negotiating. Unions want to ensure work-life balance and extra pay for working unsocial hours.
The RMT is also fighting for an improved pay deal, after bosses offered an 'increase' below RPI inflation. And station staff are challenging restructuring that could threaten passenger safety, and includes pay cuts for new employees.
After the conference, RMT ballot results on 30 June had 91% for strike action over night tubes and the pay deal. In addition, 94% backed walkouts over restructuring. Second transport union TSSA published 77% for strikes the same day. This follows 98% in favour from drivers' union Aslef.
These resounding strike mandates come ahead of ballot results for the remaining tube union, Unite. If the four come out together, a likely stoppage on 8 to 9 July could be the most thoroughgoing in years.
Proposed new strike restrictions would hit the RMT particularly hard. Transport could be declared an "essential service", making action illegal if less than 40% of members vote in favour. This number includes members who do not return postal ballots. In effect, they would be counted as voting against action, instead of just not voting. This would be on top of a 50% minimum turnout rule.
Steve Hedley, the union's assistant general secretary, prepared members to defy legal constraints. He said that if the union could not struggle within the law, it may have to do so outside it. The AGM also discussed building towards a general strike.
Delegates called for closer cooperation between the RMT and other transport unions to head off attacks. General secretary Mick Cash agreed. He said the National Shop Stewards Network, which connects ordinary trade unionists in all sectors, was important for this.
Members in Network Rail, which runs most of Britain's railway infrastructure, have already won an enhanced pay offer. A strong mandate for strikes forced bosses to give more. Members voted to accept the improvement by 82%.
Train conductors on TransPennine Express were also celebrating. Their latest strikes - backing a member sacked for protecting a child's life - have been called off. The matter has apparently been resolved to the heroic guard's satisfaction. Bosses aim to abolish conductors on the line.
The union remains a central player in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which includes the Socialist Party. Conference endorsed the political report made by the union's leading body, the council of executives. This allows the union to continue backing any anti-austerity candidates - including from TUSC. The RMT is represented on the TUSC national steering committee.
The AGM also resolved unanimously to support Jeremy Corbyn's campaign for Labour leadership.
35 attended a TUSC fringe meeting - over a third of conference numbers. Over 20 copies of the Socialist were sold during the week.
In The Socialist 1 July 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party features
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns