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STUC Conference ’21 Employers will be looking to break union organisation as we emerge from Covid

A co-ordinated trade union response is needed to fight the coming onslaught as companies seek to claw back lost profit, writes MICK CASH

AS WE slowly emerge out of this latest lockdown and more than a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is very clear that we are facing an industrial landscape where cheapskate, chiselling employers are going to use every trick in the book to profit out of this crisis.

Our GMB colleagues at British Gas have already felt the full, poisonous force of the fire-and-rehire scandal. 

Other companies have clocked this racket and are sharpening their axes and it will be unionised, organised industries that they look to take apart under the cloak of Covid-19. 

We know that offshore, shipping and contracted infrastructure sectors where RMT is strong are being lined up. 

We need a co-ordinated trade union response to fight this scourge.

Likewise on pay. For decades the government has tried to maintain the facade that rail workers are ‎not essential, public service staff. 

Now, with a pay freeze on the table, we suddenly find ourselves herded together with millions of key worker colleagues, expected to take a direct cut in living standards while boardroom excess, procurement profiteering at the heart of government and Tory lobbying scandals let rip.

Well, we’ve already made it clear that we are not sitting back and taking this nonsense. 

RMT Scotrail members, front-line essential workers throughout the pandemic, are now in the front line of the pay fightback. 

Our conductor members have stood firm for over a month in strike action over the basic priniple of pay equality for rest day working. 

They will shortly be joined by our ticket examiner members. They are united under the banner that all transport workers are essential workers and every one of them deserves a fair deal and workplace justice.

While it is good news that the Scottish government has at last set out a timetable to bring Scotrail into public ownership, it is a scandal that the political leadership are sitting on their hands and let Abellio milk every last penny out of the franchise at the expense of their workforce.

RMT is engaged in parallel pay fights on CalMac and the Caledonian Sleeper and I have no doubt whatsoever that these brave groups of trade union members are blazing a trail that others are set to follow.

Over the next few months you will see RMT jacking up a major campaign over major threats to our members at Network Rail and I would ask you to support us. 

Network Rail, under political pressure, is looking at axing jobs, maintenance schedules and safety standards. 

It is a toxic and potentially lethal cocktail of measures with long-term ramifications for staff, the industry and the travelling public. We are determined to halt the plans in their tracks.

The past year has been challenging for all of us as we have sought to maintain jobs, services and whole industries throughout the pandemic. 

For me, the trade union response has been magnificent and we have been high profile in every sector applying pressure on the government.

Now we face a new, and possibly bigger, challenge — the rank opportunism of employers seeking to exploit the Covid-19 fallout to break union organisation and ramp up profits. 

We know that we will stand or fall together. Let’s rise to the challenge.

Mick Cash is general secretary of RMT.

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