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BACK in August last year Chris Grayling threw down a major challenge to my trade union. On the back of the timetable chaos unleashed on his watch he attempted to shift the blame from his own department’s failures and onto the rail workforce by demanding we move away from retail price index pay awards to a lesser measure — the CPI.
Grayling’s intention was clear, he wanted RMT members to bail him out by taking a pay cut. He even went so far as to attack me personally in the House of Commons.
The RMT said at the time that we would smash the government’s pay cap and we meant it: that is exactly what we have done.
Across the train operating companies we have protected our members’ standards of living and that clear red line has now been extended to Network Rail where we have just secured a two-year deal that holds to the retail price index measure and maintains the jobs guarantee.
No other trade union in the country can claim such a wholesale victory against the Tories and their cheerleaders and we are rightly proud of what we have achieved. We are fighting and we are winning.
On London Underground, RMT members on the fleet operation stood united and determined in a campaign against potentially lethal cuts to train maintenance schedules and backed up that campaign with a willingness to strike in the interests of safety.
The result? A total capitulation by Tube bosses who scrapped their plans lock, stock and barrel. This is another huge victory for this union that has given us the springboard for a similar fight over a “transformation programme” which is a cloak for smuggling in wholesale cuts and privatisation.
Our success in defeating this government-inspired attack on pay, jobs and safety has been built on the strength of our members, their solidarity and their determination to stand and fight to protect working conditions and living standards secured over years of struggle.
I am proud to have led those members as the RMT’s general secretary and I am standing for re-election to continue that work.
In the maritime sector, years of campaigning has forced the government to extend the national minimum wage regulations to seafarers working in the offshore industry.
It was RMT activists who put in the hard yards, under the banner of our ongoing “SOS2020” campaign, applying relentless pressure to secure that victory. There is much more for us to do to end the scandal of the “Ships of Shame” that blight the waters of a once proud maritime nation. There will be no respite from the RMT as we step up our maritime campaigning.
We know that there are major challenges ahead. Railway pensions are next in the firing line and we are ready for that fight. If it means co-ordinated national strike action cross the railway to face down a pensions raid from any quarter, then so be it. The deferred wages of RMT members will not be used as a bargaining chip in a row between the train operating companies and the Department for Transport.
But RMT is not just in defensive mode — we have much wider objectives. Our fight for safety and accessibility to rail services, spearheaded by the guards dispute, continues — and so does our campaigning to end the scourge of outsourcing, casualisation and the evil of poverty pay.
There is no place for any of that in a modern transport industry. Securing pay increases of over 20 per cent for DHL logistics workers on the West Coast Main Line proves that militant, industrial trade unionism can turn the tide on poverty pay wherever it exists when we get organised.
There is also no excuse for any rail worker to be denied travel rights in an industry they make such a valuable contribution to and the RMT will be ratcheting up the demand for a national travel scheme that is fair, inclusive and leaves no-one behind. Equality is right at the heart of everything we do as a trade union.
With a return to public ownership of the railway now the settled will of 70 per cent of the British people we have much to do to make that aim a reality.
If anything, the bus sector has taken even more of a battering under privatisation, with wages, services and working conditions slashed to ribbons, and I am pleased that as we move towards an expected early election, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are working with us to put buses back on centre stage where they belong.
On the roads, it is RMT members from haulage to taxis who are leading the fight against social dumping and deregulation. I am proud of each and every member who puts in the hours, recruiting, organising and educating, in sectors where it is notoriously hard work in a relentlessly hostile environment. Those trade unionists are the real heroes of our movement.
A vote for me in the RMT general secretary election is a vote to push forwards in the next five years, to build on our successes and deliver for every member the length and breadth of the industries we organise across. The RMT is a union which is fighting and which is winning. I intend to keep it that way.
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