RMT caves in

The longest strike in railway history has collapsed in defeat for the RMT. Despite massive propaganda and outright threats from Arriva Trains Northern, conductors had voted by 295 to 165 in the ballot organised by the RMT to continue with their dispute. The RMT responded with another seven strike dates. This caused a rebellion at Leeds, where up to 140 conductors decided to defy the union and sign the new contracts offered by management. The RMT decided that as a result they had no alternative but to call the dispute off. They have therefore accepted the offer of four percent, which will not be backdated. Conductor representatives I talked to darkly accuse the officials of RMT of deliberately ratcheting up the strike dates in order to provoke a rebellion, to bring the dispute to a close. The main point, however, is it seemed to conductors that they could not win against Arriva while the Strategic Rail Authority bankrolled the company with taxpayers' money. They could not win if the union leadership continued to refuse to ask Aslef drivers not to cross picket lines. Nevertheless, the dispute has strengthened the resolve of the majority of RMT conductors and has not resulted in the union been broken. Something that Arriva and the SRA were hoping for. The conductors might be battered and bruised but, in those immortal words of Arnie, 'they will be back'. Bill Hodge