Bosses and the Tory government are trying to bring UK trade unions to their knees. Not that this is a surprise. However, some unions appear to be holding the line better than others – currently none more so than the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF). Rail strikes are coming, just as the likes of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are royally pissing off some members over Royal Mail‘s dodgy deal. Oh, and we must also hat-tip Unite NHS workers – who’ve just rejected a pay offer, too.
RMT and ASLEF: not having it
It’s been widely reported that RMT members will strike for 24 hours on 13 May. As the union said in a press release, this was due to the rail companies’ body, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG):
saying they would only implement the first-year payment of 5% if the union terminated its industrial mandate meaning no further strike action could take place.
Stage 2 discussions which are part of the offer made by the employer would then have to begin without the union having any industrial leverage at the negotiating table.
That is, bosses have said ‘you’ll only get more money if you agree not to strike again’. For the RMT this is, of course, unacceptable. So, members will walk out once more. Of course, the union hasn’t picked a strike date out of thin air. 13 May is when the UK hosts Eurovision. It’s also a day after the first ASLEF train drivers union strike. Those workers are taking further action on 31 May and 3 June. The latter date is the day of the FA Cup final.
We cannot tolerate this level of interference in our disputes.
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Unfortunately, while the RMT and ASLEF continue to hold bosses’ and the government’s feet to the fire, the story with other trade unions is not quite so encouraging.
RCN: what the hell? Unite: good for you
Firstly, the government has shut down one of three Royal College of Nursing (RCN) strike days. In an outrageous last-minute legal challenge, health secretary Steve Barclay got a court to block the RCN strike on 2 May. This was part of a 48-hour action by the union – meaning nurses will now walk out for less time. The strike will start at 8:00pm on 30 April and end at 11:59pm on 1 May. RCN general secretary Pat Cullen was fuming. She said:
what an indictment on this government to do this to the very people that have held this NHS together, not just through the pandemic, but an NHS that has been run into the ground and in crisis, caused by this government.
However, there are unavoidable questions over both Barclay’s and the RCN’s role in this drama:
Government sources say that, given there was a specific request from NHS Employers for them to try to avert the strike through legal action, they had little choice.
Not great for RCN to have called an unlawful strike too.
Ultimately this just drags on and more patients suffer.
— Ben Kentish (@BenKentish) April 27, 2023
Government wins its court case against the Royal College of Nursing.
It means the nurses strike on 2nd May won’t go ahead.
But RCN says that, by taking them to court, Steve Barclay has made future strikes more likely.
Could be a very short-term win for the Health Secretary.
— Ben Kentish (@BenKentish) April 27, 2023
Added to this, Unite NHS workers have voted to reject the government’s pay offer as well. Most of the workers are ambulance staff, and some junior workers. This may prompt questions over the RCN’s handling of the dispute – because Unite categorically did not tell its members to vote for the offer, unlike the RCN.
Meanwhile, the CWU isn’t fairing much better. However, this is a problem partly of its own making.
CWU: on the ropes with some members?
As the Canary previously reported, the CWU has been dancing with the devil by agreeing to an offer from Royal Mail. The deal on the table includes a 10% pay rise across three years, and changes to start and finish times. However, a lot of members on social media are furious.
Since the CWU announced the offer, it has been carrying out a concerted campaign to try and win people over. The fact it has to do this to try and get members’ support is a massive red flag in the first place. Most recently, it published a video explaining the changes to finishing times:
The true story on later starts. It is a MAXIMUM of one hour. Everyone will know their proposed start time ahead of any vote 👍 pic.twitter.com/2jQSUWHAaH
— The CWU (@CWUnews) April 27, 2023
The problem is, the CWU is framing this as ‘well, Royal Mail wanted to do something terrible – but we’ve stopped it doing that’. In reality, all the union has achieved is to make something a little less worse: hardly a resounding victory. People pointed out that for some workers, this would be a disaster:
As a parent to young children who rely on me to pick them up from school, this particular issue feels like a defeat.
I don't trust management to implement any kind of family friendly measures whatsoever
— The Optimistic PL Red ⭐⭐ (@OptimisticNFFC) April 27, 2023
Others were really not happy with the deal at all:
“No change until March 2024”
Then what? Planes stop, RM change start times. We all know it will be more than just an hour.
And we lost around £1,500 striking for 18 days, £500 is all we’re offered?
Also, 20% of zero profit is still 0. Brace yourself for a no vote @CWUnews
— Michael Coy (@michael_coy) April 27, 2023
The CWU’s situation has echoes of the RCN’s in two respects. First, it’s likely that members will reject this deal, and industrial action will be back on. Second, however – questions are being asked about just why the CWU is promoting this deal like it’s a good thing (again, like the RCN previously did). Does the union know something the public doesn’t know about Royal Mail’s future? Are its leaders ultimately just being subservient to bosses? Who knows.
What we do know is that working-class trade unions in the UK are dropping like flies when it comes to resistance against bosses, the Tories, and the system. Thank God for the RMT, ASLEF, and Unite, hey? Let’s hope they don’t bottle it, too.
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