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RMT Annual General Meeting: "If provoked - Will strike"
London Underground strike of RMT tube workers, photo Paul Mattsson
A number of delegates at the transport union RMT's AGM wore T-shirts picturing a viper and the wording "If provoked - will strike". These T-shirts summed up the mood, both of the leadership and rank and file delegates, who are undoubtedly preparing themselves for defensive battles on jobs, pay and conditions.
What was clear from the AGM was the understanding that management has drawn up battle lines, and militancy is required. The RMT have already had 61 ballots for industrial action so far this year.
One delegate encapsulated this mood when he said: "We can pass all the resolutions we want, but we must also launch the campaigns. We have to reach every mess room, every depot."
He added: "When you put your cross [for strike action] - it might be for one day. But, you don't stop until the goal is won."
A resolution was passed, with 63 in favour and three abstentions, backing the union's decision to stand in the European elections under the banner No2EU - Yes to Democracy.
It called on the AGM to endorse the Council of Executive's proposal to hold a convention in Autumn to discuss with socialists and trade unionists on how best to defend and promote working class interests.
A resolution from the RMT young members' conference entitled "When I'm 64" was carried. The resolution said that although young people could work in the industry from 16, they are not allowed to contribute to the majority of occupational pension funds until 18 - effectively denying them two years worth of pension entitlement.
Delegates applauded the young members for putting forward a motion on pensions. Delegates were outraged that, while the pensions of workers were under attack, the former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, who had presided over the biggest corporate loss in British history, walked away with a massive pension.
One delegate said he'd wanted to retire at 55, but the capitalist crisis had "scuppered that", as in order to have "dignity in old age - you need a few bob in your pocket."
Another delegate pointed out his pension pot had been reduced by £3,000. He added: "Where has it gone? Into the back pockets of the rich."
Pat Sikorski, RMT assistant general secretary, explained how New Labour are attempting to deflect the blame for this capitalist economic crisis. They are pushing the idea of greedy public sector workers, in order to justify attacks on wages and conditions.
Another delegate, speaking on a resolution condemning zero-hour contracts, explained that management are wanting a: "Martini workforce - anytime, anywhere, anyplace."
Throughout the AGM, delegate after delegate told of the battering workers are enduring from bullying bosses.
General secretary Bob Crow explained how employers are using zero-hour contracts in an attempt to turn the clock back. "When they want you - you get work. When they don't want you - you get nothing." This means: "No holiday pay, no sick pay. Six hours work one day - nothing the next!"
The credit crunch is also being used by management attempting to squeeze the terms and conditions of RMT members.
This includes the use of agency staff, who are being taken on for longer periods.
RMT members are also suffering where employers use attendance policies as a disciplinary tool.
On the London Underground 8,000 of the 10,000-12,000 workforce are on such a warning. Constant bullying has led to the current dispute.
In The Socialist 8 July 2009:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reviews
Socialist Party workplace news