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10 September 2007updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

We were right to strike

As the TUC gets underway, RMT boss Bob Crow uses a newstatesman.com article to attack critics in the

By Bob Crow

The capitalist media went apoplectic when 2,300 RMT members at failed privateer Metronet went on strike last week to protect their jobs and pensions.

I am proud of every one of those trade unionists, who held the line with a rock-solid and 100 per cent effective strike, which gave their negotiating team the strength it needed.

I have always believed that you can judge how good a job a union is doing by how nasty the attacks upon it get, so judging by the vitriol spewing from the right-wing media, I reckon we can’t have done too badly.

The bankrupt company and its administrator – and, it must be said, Transport for London – seemed to sleepwalk into the dispute, and the blame for the massive disruption to the public belongs fairly and squarely with them.

Maybe they believed their own spin, for despite five weeks’ notice of our intention to strike, and the fact that only 20 of our members voted against it, a sense of urgency only appeared on the day the strike started.

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Our members demonstrated that their jobs and pensions will not become the price to be paid for the failure of a PFI project that has already seen millions robbed from the Tube network.

We have also delivered the clear message that any other employer who comes after our members’ jobs, pensions or conditions can expect more of the same.

This week we will be asking our brothers and sisters at the TUC to throw the weight of the entire trade union movement behind the demand that Tube maintenance is brought back into the public sector.

That is what our members want, for ultimately that is the only way in which their jobs and pensions, but that is also what the vast majority of Londoners want because they know that is the way to protect the public service our members deliver.

We will also be asking delegates this week to campaign for a referendum on the re-hashed European Union Constitution, and to campaign for a ‘no’ vote, in line with Congress policy adopted two years ago.

Whatever you call the EU Reform Treaty, it contains the same anti-democratic mix that was in the Constitution supposedly killed off by French and Dutch votes in 2005.

It is the back-door Constitution which would still transform the EU into a state, and transfer power to an unelected EU government.

For working people it would be a disaster, further institutionalising the mis-named economic ‘liberalisation’, forcing more privatisation of public services and abolishing vetoes over transport and a host of other areas.

It would be a breath of fresh air if the government stopped hiding behind EU regulations that, for example, forced the tendering of Caledonian MacBrayne’s lifeline ferry services, and started challenging them instead.

The CalMac tendering process cost taxpayers a staggering £17 million – money that should have been spent on improving those services.

Just a fraction of it would settle the Orkney Ferries dispute, where our members are still being paid upwards of £2,000 less than colleagues on other ferry companies.

During our Metronet strike last week there were the usual right-wing voices calling for strikes to be banned in public services – as if the anti-union laws still on the statute book weren’t already restrictive enough.

We already have to jump through hoops to take strike action at all, and isn’t it outrageous that our brothers and sisters in the Prison Officers’ Association should face the prospect of court action for striking at all?

The POA has done the entire movement a favour by thumbing its nose at laws that belong in the history books

And that is why we will also this week be asking Congress to step up campaigning for trade-union rights and for an end to Britain’s shameful position outside international Labour Organisation conventions on labour rights.

With the Trade Union Freedom Bill heading for its second reading on October 19, we need to mobilise for the biggest possible turn-out at the parliamentary rally in the House of Commons on October 18.

Trade-union freedom isn’t an abstract idea, or a luxury that would be nice to have – it is a basic necessity without which working people will always be fighting with both arms tied behind their backs

Bob Crow is general secretary of the RMT

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