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RMT conference: Striking back against privatisation
THE RMT, railworkers and seafarers' union, conference met in Dublin last week to face up to attacks from employers on privatisation, pensions and pay.
Strike action across the entire tube network was threatened if Transport for London goes ahead with plans to privatise the East London line. An emergency resolution condemned the plans which could see the line handed over to private companies after it reopens in 2010, when an extension of the line is expected to be finished.
Socialist Party member Bob Law, a driver on the East London line and delegate to the conference, warned: "Privatisation is dangerous - look at all the disasters on the mainline railway since privatisation and then there's the problems arising from the part privatisation of the tube."
Bob attacked the now New Labour London Mayor Ken Livingstone who had gone from being an opponent of privatisation when he was standing as an Independent for Mayor to now being one of the keenest backers of the privatisation plans.
Bob pointed out that Livingstone's 'new' position was because he now fully supported New Labour's privatisation mania.
The threat of industrial action against changes to railworkers' pension schemes had recently forced rail industry employers to retreat from their original plans and concede the establishment of a Rail Pensions Commission.
The need to defend current final salary pension schemes was a dominant theme at the conference.
Brian Munro, a delegate from London Underground, said that pension plans across all sectors were a serious attack on the working class in this country.
He said that the union had run a magnificent campaign on the mainline and that would now be needed on London Underground where management wanted to change the balance of power away from workers' representatives on the pensions board.
Bob Law warned that privatisation of the rail industry was undermining pension provision.
Many workers, he said, were facing poverty within weeks of retirement. Consequently, many were going back into work at lower wages and were being used to undercut the pay and conditions of workers who had not retired.
Bob argued that the union movement needed to fight for decent pensions for all so that when people retired the wouldn't be forced back into work on poverty pay rates.
Trevor Jordan, a Preston delegate, told how his pension scheme had ended after privatisation and transfer of his job.
He said: "Poverty in old age is going to be a reality for me", explaining how he had been encouraged to take out a stakeholder pension by his new company. He said that he will be paying in £30 a month for the next 20 years or more in order to realise a pension of only £300 a year when he retires.
RMT assistant general secretary Pat Sikorski pointed out that there had been a 60%-80% loss in value on money purchase schemes taken out a decade ago.
A report on the debate on political representation will appear in next week's issue.
In The Socialist 13 July 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth and Education
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party National committee report