Photographic evidence of police spying on RMT

STEVE HEDLEY addressing RMT members during a campaign against victimisation of another RMT member
STEVE HEDLEY addressing RMT members during a campaign against victimisation of another RMT member

THE Blacklist Support Group has revealed photographic evidence of undercover police spying on the RMT rail union.

Photographic evidence shows that in October 2004 a spy cop was present at the industrial dispute following the sacking of the prominent union activist Steve Hedley (now elected as Senior Assistant General Secretary of the RMT union) at the Kings Cross terminal for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

RMT said: ‘The presence of the police spy from the Met’s disgraced Special Demonstration Squad was captured on camera by the freelance photographer Andrew Wiard. ‘The photographs show the police spy standing behind an RMT banner with the slogan “Reinstate Steve Hedley” while handing out leaflets to construction workers who had walked out in support of the victimised union activist.’

Hedley commented: ‘I am appalled that a secret police spy thought that it was justified to turn up on a peaceful RMT picket line in order to gather information. I had earlier housed this person rent free as he claimed he was being made homeless, and feel shocked that taxpayers’ money could be used like this to betray the trust of people engaged in completely legitimate industrial action. We heard a lot growing up about police states in other countries whilst it turns out our state was doing exactly the same thing here.’

The photographs were rediscovered by Dave Smith while researching for the updated version of the book ‘Blacklisted’ and first made public at the GMB union conference in Bournemouth on Sunday (5th June).

Smith commented afterwards: ‘We were standing up for workers rights, but apparently the British state considered us such a threat that we were kept under constant surveillance by shady anti-democratic units in the police. This is nothing less than political policing and has no place in a democracy. This took place during the Tony Blair government and I want to know why trade unions were were being spied on under a Labour Home Secretary. David Blunkett has serious questions to answer.’

Both Steve Hedley and Dave Smith have been granted core participant status in the Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT has been aware for some time that there was a destroyed “rail file” at the heart of the black listing conspiracy that has never been properly investigated.

‘These photographs show clearly that rail union activists were being targeted as part of the police operation and it is time for the truth to be dragged out. Both of RMT’s assistant general secretaries, Steve Hedley and Mick Lynch, were blacklisted and the union is demanding to know how many others were being spied on by the police and the employers’ organisations. The fight for truth and justice goes on.’

Meanwhile, new figures confirm RMT warnings over growing dangers on London Underground at the Platform/Train Interface. New figures pulled out of Transport for London by a Freedom of Information FoI) request show that the number of passengers falling between the train and the platform has more than trebled in ten years, with RMT laying the blame on dangerous overcrowding and the axing of safety-critical station staff.

The FoI report in the ‘Evening Standard’ reveals that a total of 307 incidents were recorded last year up from under a hundred less than ten years ago. Only last week, RMT demanded an investigation after a woman got trapped between the platform and a Jubilee line train at Canning Town. The union is still awaiting a response to that request.

The Rail Accident Investigation Board has also recently highlighted the case in March last year of a woman who was pulled onto the tracks at Clapham South after her coat got caught in a train door.

RAIB are warning of an escalation of risks at the Platform/Train Interface. The new figures also reveal there has been an increase in the number of falls onto the platform or into the carriage as passengers board or leave trains. Last year 288 were reported, three times the number when data was first recorded in 2003.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The severe and escalating dangers at the Platform/Train Interface on both tube and mainline are catapulted into the public eye by these shocking new figures. Only a fool would sit back and ignore a three-fold increase in potentially lethal incidents.

‘RMT has warned that axing 800 station staff, against a background of chronic overcrowding, unleashes a poisonous cocktail across the tube network that threatens life and limb. The union is demanding action and that means reversing the staffing cuts and taking RMT’s warning about overcrowding seriously instead of winging it which is exactly what is happening at the moment.’

• RMT on Monday issued evidence that proves conclusively that Govia/Southern Rail have been lying repeatedly to the public over the impact of staff sickness on the escalating crisis of cancellations and delays to Southern Rail services. In a letter to Southern MD Charles Horton the union pulls out two recent examples of how the company is attempting to shift the scandal of short-staffing and managerial incompetence onto the front-line workforce – leaving them at risk of abuse and assault, while those responsible for the chaotic running of the franchise are tucked away in their luxury offices.

The letter draws attention to the following:

• A driver, guard and train were available to work 2F95 – the 7.10 Brighton to Lewes on June 1st – and arrived, in good time, only to find the train was showing as cancelled due to shortage of train crew – even though a full crew had presented.

• A member of the public ‘tweeted’ as to why the 16:46 train on 20th May 2016 from London Bridge to Tattenham Corner was cancelled.

The twitter response from Southern was the cancellation was due to ‘conductor (guards) shortage’. This line operates as DOO and has no conductors. The union also pointed out that earlier in the year an agreement was obtained to move from 472 to a 490 overall guards establishment by the end of May to fill new roster patterns.

RMT said: ‘Clearly this has not happened. On the most recent information  the company had 25 vacancies, when added to the unfilled 18 guards increase that was agreed and not implemented this leaves a deliberately engineered gap of 43 posts in total – blowing a major hole in roster patterns that is entirely due to mismanagement and cost-cutting.

‘On Friday evening rush hour Southern services were reduced to total chaos due to a series of fleet breakdowns which were entirely down to the company and its penny pinching on maintenance. The wholesale cancellation of services left thousands trapped before the weekend and provoked a storm of anger at the company on social media.’

RMT General Secretary Cash said: ‘RMT will not tolerate the disgraceful attempts to blame the current operational crisis at Southern/GTR on the front-line staff when the responsibility lies with those at the top and their gross mismanagement of this basket-case franchise.

‘The company are caught out red-handed cancelling services that were fully staffed, and blaming the guards for the cancellation of services that don’t even have guards on board. That is conclusive proof that the company are engineering the current shambles so that they can knock lumps out of their own staff. They are an absolute disgrace.

‘RMT also proves today that Southern never staffed up their new guards rosters and are carrying vacancies that they have no intention of filling of around 10%. That is the root cause of the staffing shortage and is entirely down to the shambolic management of this franchise and is nothing to do with our members on the frontline. Southern should stop the dirty tricks and start talking with us in a serious and responsible manner.’

• Sister rail union ASLEF announced on Monday that members on London Tramlink will strike on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 June after a 100% Yes vote for action in a dispute over pay.

ASLEF said: ‘Tram services are operated, under TfL branding, by FirstGroup, a multinational company whose chief executive Tim O’Toole had his salary doubled to £2,000,000 per annum.’

Finn Brennan, ASLEF’s organiser on London Underground, said: ‘Drivers and other staff on Tramlink earn much less than those doing similar jobs in other parts of the industry. Last year they saw their pension benefits drastically cut as FirstGroup milked its staff to increase its profits.

‘Tramlink staff work hard to deliver a service that is crucial to the economy of Croydon and the wider South London area it serves. But it is clear that their employer simply does not value them.

‘As the cost of living, and especially housing costs, in London continue to rocket, their living standards have declined. The current pay offer of 2.6% doesn’t make up for the cuts FirstGroup has made to pensions and means staff will continue to earn much less then they deserve. ASLEF have asked the company to make a much improved offer to avoid this dispute but they haven’t even been prepared to meet us since our members voted for action. FirstGroup have left us with no other option than to take strike action.’

Meanwhile, ASLEF has slammed the Department for Transport (Dft) for its refusal to bring Southern train company to book for its repeated franchise failures. Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: ‘The Period 2 TOC Performance Data, due out this week, will put GTR in breach of its remedial plan – which is a default on its franchise – so under the rules the keys should be handed back.

‘But the DfT has indicated, privately, to the company, that this won’t happen. What we want to know is why is the DfT turning a blind eye to GTR being in default? Why is the DfT failing in its duty?

‘Southern has repeatedly been condemned – by Conservative MPs, commuters, and taxpayer watchdogs – for the poor service it delivers to passengers. This is the chance for Patrick McLoughlin to do the right thing for once. But he is sitting on his hands, doing nothing while Rome burns.’