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(en) Britain, Anarchist Solidarity Federation* Newspaper Catalyst #22 Winter 2009 - Page 2 - Troubled tracks as pay claim looms for the underground + Contract cleaners fight poverty pay

Date Mon, 19 Apr 2010 11:43:10 +0300

Troubled tracks as pay claim looms for the underground ---- The triple dispute on London Underground (LUL) over redundancies, pay and victimisations appears at first sight to have fizzled out after the initial 48 hour strikes back in June. ---- The redundancy issue was resolved for the time being by a compromise where management have not conceded the principle of no compulsory redundancies but no RMT member will be made redundant, for now.
The deadline for unions to accept or reject the pay offer has been extended until the beginning of October, as ASLEF, Unite! and TSSA have asked for more time to consider it. Activists from these unions have admitted that they had been waiting for the RMT to “punch itself out” fighting Transport for London (TfL) management on its own, intending to come in, win the dispute and poach members from it at the last minute.

RMT activists are now biding
their time and seeking to get the
other unions involved in any future
pay dispute.
The single 48 hour strike
followed by a long wait for further
industrial action jarred with
RMT’s reputation as Britain’s most
militant union.
The lack of sustained strike
action compared unfavourably with
the postal strikes in London which
have occurred weekly for months
and even the successful united
action RMT took with ASLEF on
mainline services from London’s
Liverpool Street station.
The cynicism of the other unions
combined with doubts about the
commitment of RMT officials
and some activists to winning
the disputes to make much of
the membership reluctant to lose
pay for strikes which might prove
Much of the RMT’s reputation for
militancy at LUL stems from the
engineering workers employed on
what was the Metronet contract.
Not only did they square up to an
unscrupulous private consortium
for years but the work involved
fighting privatisation meant that
the officials had to leave the work
to lay activists, ceding control to
them in the process.
RMT activists directly employed
by LUL and TfL by contrast have
had a cosier relationship with
management and their stomach
for a fight is questionable.
The ex-Metronet workers brought
their rank-and-file organising
model, based on a standing strike
committee, into LUL with them.
The strike committee was
subject to sniping from established
LUL activists, and Bob Crow and
Pat Sikorsky took control of the
The latter pair, who had
previously victimised LUL
Regional Officer Bobby Law also
sidelined his successor in the role,
Steve Headley.

The union’s leadership had
shown indecent haste in agreeing
the terms for transferring Metronet
workers to LUL without their reps’
agreement and are suspected of
not wanting a fight over pay and
Nevertheless, what was originally
billed as London Mayor Boris
Johnson’s attempt to break the
RMT on LUL has failed.

The union’s
leadershi p had
shown indecent
haste in agreeing
the terms for
Metronet workers
to LUL without
their reps’

Contract cleaners fight poverty pay

Workers in contract cleaning face low
wages, a lack of basic employment
rights, bullying management and
victimisation for union activities.
However, especially among Latin
Americans, self-organisation has
sustained struggles against their
employers, and the fight against
the immigration controls which
are used to sack unwanted workers
and victimise union activists.
Contractors use immigration
controls to sack unwanted workers
and to punish them for organising.
A favourite tactic is to organise
an immigration raid under the
pretext of “health and
safety” training, where
ct cleanworkers are detained by riot police
and immigration officials and
subject to fast track deportation if
they can’t prove the right to work
in the UK. Another is to claim that
National Insurance numbers under
which NI has been paid by workers
for years are “suspicious” and to call
workers in for immigration checks,
knowing that anyone whose status
is questionable will disappear –
redundancy without the costs.
Grassroots struggles highlight
the inadequacy of the “organising
model” of trades unionism
favoured by the social democratic
unions who believe that capitalism
can and should be managed
better to benefit workers. To
do this they have to work with the
bosses, and get the Labour Party
to provide a legislative framework
to force the former to do so. A
top-down model of large, passive
unionised workforces, negotiation
controlled by full-time officials
and a concentration on “headline”
issues such as the London Living
Wage rather than the full range
of workers’ concerns is their
Social democrats see the fact
that these cleaning contractors
are rich multinational companies
as meaning they should be more
willing to pay better wages to their
workers as they can “afford” it. In
fact, they are rich precisely because
they are constantly cutting costs
on their existing contracts and
winning more contracts through
undercutting their competitors.
As well as giving their investors a
greater return this attracts further
investment and keeps the share
price up. Their wealth proves
they are ruthless, but makes them
attractive “partners” for the social
Consequently, the Justice4Cleaners campaign
organised by T&G/Unite! has
concentrated on “easy targets” and
neglected small groups of workers
in “hard to organise” workplaces.
Cleaners sacked by Amey at the
(NPL) in Teddington outside
London, working for Lancaster at
Schroders bank and for Mitie at
Willis insurance company in the
City of London have organised
themselves, and showed up the

unions and why they find such
workers “hard to organise”.
These campaigns have been
sustained by support from the Latin
American Workers Association,
No Borders and the Campaign
Against Immigration Controls.
Other supporters have included
SF members from the two London
Locals. Noise pickets have been
organised at contractors’ offices,
and outside events organised
or attended by their clients, to
embarrass them into taking
responsibility for the contractors’
Our aim should not just be to
shame capitalists into acting against
their own interests, but to expose
their true nature and to advocate
their abolition. The existing unions
cannot and will not do this; it is not
just the methods but the aims and
objectives of the social democrats
which fail the working class.
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