stop the union busters – victory to the rmt

Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Poor folks ain’t got a chance
Unless they organize
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Pete Seeger

by Chris Kane

The National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) have called a 48-hour strike forJune 9th to 11th on the London Underground and Transport for London after workers voted by a huge majority to take action over pay, jobs and justice.

Transport for London is cutting 1,000 jobs, tearing up previous agreements on no compulsory redundancies. TfL are trying to impose a five year pay deal starting with a derisory 1% and for 2009 and RPI+0.5% for the next four years. This amounts to nothing more than a pay cut year after year, they refuse even to consider the RMT’s one year pay claim. Across the London Underground management have been engaged in a campaign of bullying and harassment of staff, ignoring established procedures on discipline and attendance. All this amounts to a premeditated bosses offensive against the RMT, the largest union of rail workers. The conduct of management has been nothing other than a provocation, the Tories want a fight – they have even brought in a union busting firm of consultants from The Burke Group.

This dispute is the first round of a fight with a Tory Party intent on carrying out wide scale cuts in the public sector. Whilst some sections of our movement are currently obsessed by the events of the Westminster Village they need to wake up to the reality of what is at stake in this dispute – if the strongest section of the trade union movement, both politically and industrially, suffers a defeat it will be a set back for the entire movement. Continue reading “stop the union busters – victory to the rmt”

another speaker confirmed for 20th april european elections meeting

We are pleased to announce another speaker for our upcoming London forum on ‘European elections: where should we turn our fire?’. RMT activist Andy Littlechild will be speaking alongside Mick Dooley (rank-and-file candidate for general secretary of the builders’ union UCATT) and Peter Gowan (Professor of International Relations at London Metropolitan University and a member of the editorial board of New Left Review)

The public meeting takes place from 7pm at the Lucas Arms, near King’s Cross on Monday 20th April.

We will be looking at the European Union’s response to the recession and its proposed constitution; whether there is any worth in contesting elections and whether they have any relevance to today’s workplace struggles; and the politics of the No2EU election campaign backed by the RMT, Morning Star and Socialist Party.

All are welcome. Email for further details or to register your interest. See below for map of the venue. Continue reading “another speaker confirmed for 20th april european elections meeting”

the rmt’s “no2eu” initiative

by Dave Spencer

With only two and a half months to go to the June 4th 2009 European elections, the RMT leadership have come up with a new party “No2EU – Yes to democracy”. Without a hint of irony (remember “Yes to democracy”) we are told that this “party” is for election purposes only. There will be no membership, therefore no voting for the slate of candidates needed for the election and worse still there will be no continuation of the party after the election. Indeed the whole idea has been cobbled together by the RMT, CPB and SP leaderships and will be run by them – no democratic voting by the members.

Furthermore if any “No2EU” candidate wins the election as an MEP they will not take their seat in Brussels. The voice of the British working class will not be heard in Europe. There will be no speaking tours to make links with European workers in struggle, no greetings brought to mass demonstrations and strikes, no attempt to build a new European-wide workers’ movement. No, the “No2EU” MEPs will stay at home in Britain.

And who will pay for this last minute stunt? It costs £5,000 as a deposit for each slate in each constituency. Then you need to pay for at least a million leaflets in each constituency. Presumably the RMT members are paying for it with the CPB and SP jumping on board for the ride. Continue reading “the rmt’s “no2eu” initiative”

workplace organising conference 22nd march

The London Shop Stewards Network invites all workers, reps and activists to what we believe will be an interesting, relevant and useful event co-run with members of the Campaign Against Immigration Controls (CAIC), N&E London Solidarity Federation (SolFed) and the RMT Metronet workplace strike committee.

The conference will be made up of 3 sessions:

Rank & file organising ~ from workplace organising, setting up strike committees and running a successful dispute – Metronet RMT Reps

Migrant workers in struggle ~ resisting NI checks in the workplace – CAIC

Developing class consciousness & resistance in the workplace – SolFed

Sunday 22nd March – 10am to 3pm

Somerstown Community Centre

150 Ossulston Street London NW1 1EE

(5mins walk from the British Library Euston/Kings X)

the people’s charter – a charter for change?

by Chris Kane

Pick up any paper, listen to any news bulletin, and you will find reference to yet another redundancy announcement.

Unemployment is predicted to rise to two million by spring and three million in another year: indicators put it as the worse recession since 1980. Due to the rising cost of living and growing unemployment, arrears are mounting, repossessions are expected to rise to at least 75,000.

The unelected Business Secretary Lord Mandelson says that after the recession there will emerge “a renaissance in UK manufacturing and the expansion of the UK’s knowledge-based industries”. This promise of jam tomorrow is no more comforting than Brown’s job creation schemes, a drop in the ocean of the jobs cull underway. Continue reading “the people’s charter – a charter for change?”

the people’s charter: a charter for change? – updated

In recent weeks and months a “People’s Charter” has been elaborated by a commission involving a number of leaders of the trade unions and the left, notably the leadership of the RMT railworkers’ union but also John McDonnell MP, leading officials in other broadly radical trade unions such as the FBU and NUT, and prominent members of Respect and the Communist Party of Britain. This “charter for change” has not yet been finalised, but it appears that its text will be decided upon and then launched at a rally, rather than openly and democratically discussed across wider layers of our movement. We disapprove of the manner in which this project has been carried out, and do not think much of the current raft of “programmes for government action” issued by left groups which say little about what action we ourselves must take and what movement we need to do it.

However, we publish this draft of the document (see below) in the hope that it will provoke discussion and allow dissenting voices in the labour movement like our own to be heard: as always, feel free to post comments and replies. A more thoroughgoing analysis and critique appears in the second issue of The Commune. Continue reading “the people’s charter: a charter for change? – updated”

report: conference on working-class political representation

by Chris Kane

About 120 people attended Saturday’s conference, which was called by the RMT rail union.  It was much smaller than a similar event held a few years ago and unfortunately clashed with the anti-war march and the Socialist Workers Party conference.  The event itself was not built widely with a clear agenda or purpose.  The contrast between the vibrant militant youth of the anti-war mobilisations and this conference could not have been greater: it was veterans of the left, mostly over forty, male and white.   But there was an open and extensive debate and plenty of time was allowed for contributions from the floor.

RMT leader Bob Crow opened the event by responding to criticism by a 90 year old communist who said that “this is just a talking shop”. Crow defended it on the basis that “there is a need to talk to break down the barriers of the past”.  He said that if New Labour were to found itself as a political party today there would hardly be a “trade union which would affiliate”.  It was in his view a thoroughly capitalist party and could not be reclaimed: he praised John McDonnell MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP, and pointed out that when they are gone, there will be no similar people to replace them. Continue reading “report: conference on working-class political representation”

photo-report of action to defend rmt cleaners’ reps

On the morning of January 8th a series of actions were held in defence of two RMT activists victimised by their employer ISS for standing up for cleaners on the London Underground. Feminist Fightback and CAIC activists and RMT members were prominently involved. Clara Osagiede – RMT cleaners’ grade secretary – faced a disciplinary hearing on charges of “gross misconduct” for allegedly failing to return to work after a meeting, while recently elected local rep Mary Boakye, who has an eye condition caused by an injury picked up at work, was appealing against her dismissal for allegedly sleeping during working hours. In both cases the employers’ clear motivation was to break up the organising centre of the cleaners, who last year staged a strike for a ‘living wage’ of £7.45 an hour.

Photos and comments on the day’s protests below. Continue reading “photo-report of action to defend rmt cleaners’ reps”

bulletin for january 10th rmt conference on “the crisis in working-class political representation”

On January 10th the RMT is holding a conference on “the crisis in working class political representation”. Three years after staging a similar conference – and after three years in which no progress has been made – the union leadership is carrying out some of ‘the letter’ of its conference policy to set up workers’ representation committees, although the event on Saturday will have no motions, votes or powers to make decisions. Nevertheless it should provide a forum for discussing the question of where left electoral initiatives have gone wrong and what we can do next.

We will be distributing a bulletin arguing that saying  “shall the unions stay in the Labour Party or set up a new party [a Labour Party Mk II]?” is asking the wrong question. We do not want either, but a wholesale reorganisation of the trade unions and an end to the rigid separation between workplace activism and Parliamentary/electoral politics which characterises so much of the history of the British labour movement. Click here for a pdf of the bulletin.


The event takes place from 11am to 3pm at Friends’ Meeting House near Euston Station. Speakers include Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka and John McDonnell – register at

stop union-busting of rmt cleaners: defend clara osagiede

by Chris Kane

The campaign to bust the rail workers’ union RMT amongst the cleaners on the London Underground has taken a further turn for the worse, with the possible dismissal of Cleaners Grade Secretary Clara Osagiede.  Clara is facing trumped up charges ‘of gross misconduct’ by the cleaning company ISS, whose bosses have not hidden their desire to break the union.

Clara has been a breath of fresh air in the labour movement in London and an inspiration to many workers.  She was at the forefront of organising the cleaners and played a leading role in the pioneering strikes in July 2008 across the London Underground to secure the living wage.  Despite agreeing to the RMT claim, contractors have been dragging their feet in implementing the agreement.  Worse is that since the strike ended there has been a systematic campaign of harassment and victimisation of RMT tube cleaners working for ISS, ITS, ICS and GBM, private contractors on the London Underground.   Over fifty cleaners have been sacked by bosses under the pretext of checking National Insurance numbers, two RMT have been sacked and several deported under racist immigration laws.

The attacks on RMT cleaners on London Underground have been the biggest single victimisation of trade unionists in British industry in many years. Clara was at the forefront of winning RMT (LUL) London Regional Committee to agreeing a policy that it should mount a campaign against these victimisations in September 2008.

Clearly that policy needs putting into practice, as was done in the case of the victimised rep Andy Littlechild, the victimised safety rep in Metronet, where the RMT responded with an immediate ballot for industrial action.  Historically the RMT has a record second to none in defence of victimised reps including wildcat strikes.  RMT, ASLEF and TSSA members, especially at Hainault where Clara is employed, need to urgently discuss what action they can take to defend this leading member of the union.  Members who work directly for LUL need to recognise that the victimisation of Clara is an attack on the entire union. This was not fully appreciated during the strike in July and the bosses have felt confident to continue the victimisations ever since.  It is time to say: enough is enough

There will be a demonstration in support of Clara and the RMT on the day of her disciplinary hearing: The Commune calls on our readers to mobilise for the demonstration:

Thursday 8th January
8 AM Meet for demonstration at Hainault Station
10 AM  Meet at WHSmith London Bridge, (inside the station)
11 AM Assemble at the ISS Office at 15 Park Vista, Greenwich

steve hedley elected rmt london transport regional organiser

Steve Hedley, the left candidate for the role of RMT London Transport Regional Organiser, has been elected after winning some 60% of the vote.

An RMT activist for over two decades, who has been sacked five times for standing up to management, Steve has a strong record of building the union and encouraging member involvement.

We wish him all the best in his new position.