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A comment on the RMT political strategy

by Nina G (Workers Party TU Group)

As the RMT began a fresh round of industrial action, Mick Lynch (RMT General Secretary) wrote to rail bosses to propose a new road map to navigate a way through the long-running row over pay, conditions, and possible job losses. This new push by Mr Lynch to end strikes appears to be at odds with the latest statement by ASLEF’s Mick Whelan, who has warned that “This is going to go on until the government gives us a solution”.

Mr Lynch wrote to rail bosses calling for a backdated one-year pay deal for the 2022-23 financial year and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, however the Rail Delivery Group played down the possibility that this proposal represented the serious possibility of a breakthrough, since it couldn’t avert the latest strikes.

Since 40,000 RMT members first walked out last June against government plans to cut pay, erode quality working conditions and sack thousands of workers, only half of that number remain in dispute with the government, as the union’s leadership cut a deal for the other half with a below-inflation pay deal back in March.

Even though the government-organised consultation over ticket office closures resulted in a monumental response from the public and an extension of the consultation period, the RMT has refused to take further industrial action over these closures which threaten 2300 jobs, with only one strike day being held in March, and a four-day strike in July being called off. Further to this, train operating companies have already started issuing redundancy notices to ticket office staff, despite the RMT requesting no compulsory redundancies in exchange for a resolution-based means of ending the dispute. 

Members of RMT have made considerable sacrifices for their fight to improve pay and conditions for staff working for the rail companies, including significant loss of pay. With the endorsement of ticket office closures by the Rail Delivery Group, and no concrete pay percentage demand in place, perhaps it is time to adopt a new political direction to bring the RDG to meaningful negotiations?

Although Mr Lynch has been lauded for calling Keir Starmer out for not showing any kind of solidarity with striking workers, he still capitulates to Labour in his most recent AGM speech, as if the only choice for British workers at the ballot box is a Labour government. He states that the RMT are unaffiliated to any political party yet is still trying to convince his members that “It is in our class interest and the direct interest of our members to get rid of this Tory government and replace it with a Labour government”.

This is an illogical position to take, and one which seems to be at odds with his members best interests in the fight for dignified and fair working conditions for themselves and their colleagues. Starmer and his shadow cabinet don’t even pretend that there would be any move away from Tory austerity or the continued running of the ongoing war machine. This alignment with the Bourgeois interests of the Labour Party is nothing but an act of selling workers out and will do nothing to improve the conditions of those Mr Lynch claims he is fighting for.

RMT members have shown up time and again, serving as a shining example to members of other trade unions of the strength, courage and resilience needed to make gains on disputes which workers across multiple sectors are involved in. By curtailing the momentum of this campaign, the RMT runs the risk of losing further support of their membership and running the campaign into the ground. Trade Unions should be looking to completely break free from the Labour Party, be it through the cutting of funds, or through the influence that Labour affiliated post holders exert at the highest levels of Union organisation.

One thought on “A comment on the RMT political strategy

  1. There are two separate things here: continuing the strike and recommending no break with the Labour Party.
    On the question of continuing the strike. A union leader has to weigh the possibility of success before they start or continue action. It’s one of their heavy responsibilities. It would be wrong and counterproductive to continue with an action where the possibility of victory is not at least 50/50.
    A union leader is like a general before a battle.
    As Nina says, only half the membership is now involved.
    We know Mick Lynch to be courageous and incorruptible. We could at least entertain the thought that he has weighed the pros and cons. It’s up to us, the population, to tell the government we want a publicly owned railway/water companies/energy companies. That will give strength to the rail unions, otherwise they’re on their own.

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