TALKS ARE taking place between the RMT union and Network Rail in the pay and pensions dispute that has already led to a successful strike vote. Both sides have described the talks as constructive, 'but it will take a big change from management to deliver anything worthwhile,' says one Network Rail worker.
'They have offered us the lowest pay rise in the industry and want to close the final salary pension scheme. If that's still what they push for, we should be prepared to strike.'
Management and RMT leaders have agreed to extend to 1 July the deadline within which action must be called to stay within the anti-union laws.
MORE THAN 750 RMT members at South Central Trains are set to refuse to handle revenue for two periods of 48 hours in their dispute over the company's use of agency staff to undermine pay and conditions.
The 'no revenue' days, set for Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 June and for Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 June, will involve guards, revenue protection, ticket office and other station staff.
RMT UNION members on London Underground have voted for strikes over pay and working hours, but have yet to take action as talks are under way with management. The vote last week was 2,614 for action with 643 against. That is a four to one majority on a 40 percent turnout. The executive of the RMT voted last Wednesday by five to three for a strike to take place this Thursday, 10 June-a date called for by the London Region of the union.
But two days later the executive suspended the strike after management agreed to talks. Many activists on the tube were furious that action had been called off with only the promise of talks gained. The announcement of the strike, which would have coincided with election day, had deeply embarrassed Ken Livingstone. 'The relationship of tube workers to Livingstone is different from most workers in London,' says one tube activist.
'He is our employer. People who have been in the job for a long time say that industrial relations on the tube are now the worst they've been for 20 years. We face major attacks, with plans to axe 900 jobs.'
Few people in London realise that those attacks are coming. The priority now, say many activists, is to tap the strength of feeling shown in the strike vote. That means developing an industrial and political strategy to defend jobs, win a decent pay rise, and force management to grant long promised cuts in working hours.