RMT witch hunt

Focus on action

It is about time our union thought seriously about its strategy when it comes to industrial action.

We have seen two days of action from the tubeworkers that have been very successful, with the two main unions (RMT and Aslef) working well together on the ground - the awful shenanigans by Aslef's leadership apart. On both occasions this resulted in only about 10% of services running on the underground. There are also plans for further days of action that should be just as successful.

With this in mind and the forthcoming ballot of the RMT members over the safety role of train crew (in particular that of the guard), there needs to be a concerted effort to link up disputes across the industry and across our unions. I know that the legality of this is a complex matter, but surely at the very least it would not be too hard to synchronise the dates of the actions.

Privatisation of the railways has been a disaster and to press ahead with the same treatment for the tube would only lead to a similar debacle for London Underground. A working class answer must include workers' and passengers' control of the rail and tube network. However, the unions' official campaign, 'Take back the track', does not go anywhere near what we should be calling for. Even sections of the ruling class are calling for old-style bureaucratic nationalisation.

Maybe the RMT would be more focussed on these issues if its Council of Executives (executive committee) were not so engrossed in an internal witchhunt of its own leftwing members: namely, Tony Donaghey, Alex Gordon and Pat Sikorski. Leading officers and members of the C of E have sought to discipline these three members, with no right of appeal, over the actions they took after the leadership's unconstitutional closing down of last November's special general meeting.

The dispute arose over the leadership's displeasure at the passing of 'resolution 59' at the annual general meeting in June 2000, calling for a rerun of an election to the C of E. The full-time officers refused to act on this clear decision, but when an attempt was made to challenge this through an emergency motion at the special general meeting, that was ruled out of order.

The three disciplined leftwingers were members of the standing orders committee, which had accepted the motion and insisted that it should be debated, leading to a stalemate and the leadership's decision to abandon the SGM. Subsequently they issued a circular requesting branches to support the recall of the special general meeting by sending resolutions in to the general secretary.

In a flagrant piece of hypocrisy the very full-timers who had refused to implement the original AGM resolution now declared that the standing orders committee had exceeded its powers and is believed to have suspended the three from holding office. I say "believed" because we are still awaiting an official account of what has occurred.

The latest is that branches are now sending in resolutions of support for the national president, Phil Boston, in seeking legal opinions on all the implications of the AGM and SGM 2000. At the same time there is an RMT members' petition in circulation supporting the disciplined comrades. This whole issue is sure to surface again at the 2001 train crew and shunting grades conference on April 19, 20 and 21.

It makes you wonder where it will all end. It will certainly not go unnoticed that the full-time officers are supporters of the New Labour government who are perhaps motivated by a desire to combat the rising influence of those wanting to oppose New Labour from the left.

Derek Goodliffe
RMT grades executive
(personal capacity)