RMT DEFENDS TUBE WORKERS – and supports justice for Shrewsbury pickets

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The march to free the Shrewsbury Two in 1975 ended in a mass demo in London
The march to free the Shrewsbury Two in 1975 ended in a mass demo in London

THE RMT tube union has slammed a plan unveiled by Transport for London which would replace nearly a thousand safety-critical tube station staff jobs with a scab-army of unpaid volunteers.

The plan is outlined in a company circular issued on Monday which says: ‘As we saw during the 2012 Games and during other events, we know that our customers and users really value having lots of highly visible staff to help them make their journeys.

‘This is particularly the case when journeys are disrupted on our Underground or Surface transport networks or when customers are unfamiliar with our services and how to get around London.

‘To help us serve customers across our entire transport network, we need as many TfL Ambassadors as possible to enable us to provide support when it is needed.’

The thousand threatened permanent staff jobs, held by skilled and experienced personnel, are to be replaced with unpaid and poorly trained volunteers in a deeply cynical move directly associated with the current dispute over the job cuts plans.

The volunteers would not be subject to anything like the training, safety-briefing and direct management control of the permanent tube staff and as a non-contracted, scab workforce would be able to come and go as they please, plunging the system into total chaos.

RMT is making it clear that the news of the volunteer plan, which has clearly been cooked up as part of a cynical, back-room plan to bulldoze through the cuts programme, will raise the level of anger across the entire tube workforce as they are balloted for strike action over the job and ticket office cuts and closures.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: ‘It is clear that London Underground have been working behind the scenes on a secret plan to replace nearly a thousand skilled, experienced and safety-critical tube staff with a scab army of unpaid and under-trained volunteers who would gradually be introduced into every possible corner of the tube network.

‘It is outrageous that on the one hand TFL/LU are admitting in their circular that they need more visible, station staff while on the other they are axing those same posts and seeking to fill them for free with volunteer “ambassadors”.

‘Union members across the tube system will be appalled to find that those volunteers are now being bracketed as “staff” when they are nothing of the kind.

‘There is no question that this cynical and provocative move will raise the level of anger across the board as we ballot all members for action in the fight for jobs, services and safety and we would demand that these outrageous proposals be withdrawn immediately and the recruitment stand at LU HQ be shut down forthwith.’

The RMT also supported the handing in of a petition with more than 100,000 signatures at Downing Street on Monday 16th December, calling for justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets.

The Downing Street delegation included Ricky Tomlinson, Eileen Turnbull from the official ‘Shrewsbury 24’ campaign, Len McLuskey – General Secretary of Unite, Mark Sewotka – General Secretary of PCS, Bob Crow – General Secretary of RMT and Steve Murphy – General Secretary of UCATT

The ‘Shrewsbury 24’ Campaign petition calls for the release of Government documents relating to the 1972 Builders’ Strike and subsequent trials.

RMT secretary Crow said: ‘It is clear that there was a conspiracy at the highest level in 1972 to blacklist and fit-up trade union activists and it is time for all the papers to be released and for those that were wrongly imprisoned to be given justice at last.

‘RMT is proud to be supporting the campaign for justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets and with more than 100,000 signed up to the petition it is time for David Cameron and his Government to take this shocking miscarriage of justice seriously and to make amends to all those denied their liberty and whose lives have been blighted in the following decades.

Elsewhere, GMB members demonstrated yesterday, Tuesday 17th December, outside the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) against the imposition of changes to terms and conditions of employment from 1st December 2013 and the refusal of management to negotiate with the GMB on behalf of its members.

As a result of ‘re-evaluation’ of jobs, some of the RCOG’s highly skilled researchers face an average £7,000 cut in pay, while one worker faces loss of £21,000 per year says GMB.

RCOG employs about 90 staff, GMB members, who work as librarians, cleaners, researchers and a broad spectrum of support jobs including administration.

GMB will now begin a legal challenge to these changes to terms and conditions for members. This will cover the lack of consultation in respect of the new appraisal system, an appeals procedure and pay protection, the ineffective job evaluation exercise resulting in a huge detriment to members and the denying of the right to trade union representation.

GMB has been recognised as the union for staff since October 2012 in a voluntary agreement between GMB and RCOG. However since 9th December RCOG has refused to bargain with GMB.

Anna Meyer, GMB Regional Organiser, said: ‘Consultations about a new pay and grading system and harmonisation of terms and conditions started in June 2013 to bring together employees under one contract.

‘However RCOG stopped negotiating with GMB half way through the process.

‘GMB requests for talks and further involvement to ensure a fair, transparent procedure were rejected.

‘A new pay and grading system was unilaterally imposed without agreement on 1st December.

‘As a result some of RCOG’s highly skilled researchers face an average £7,000 cut in pay while one member of staff faces a loss of £21,000 per year.

‘RCOG clearly do not respect the rights of their employees to have a trade union negotiate for them and instead have chosen to change contractual rights without consultation.

‘RCOG chose to misunderstand that it is the role of GMB to stand up for its members and chose instead to refuse to talk to the union.

‘They adopted the line of shooting the messenger rather than deal with the underlying problems the union brought to their attention.

‘So as a direct consequence of GMB’s almost continuous challenge to RCOG senior managers, about the inadequacy of employee relations, the job evaluation exercise and changes to employee terms and condition, these managers have now compounded their incompetence by refusing to negotiate with the union.

‘GMB will now start a legal challenge and will do our business with RCOG in public.’