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Fight punishment for rail strikers

It's not just Network Rail that's using this tactic
Issue 2871
Network rail workers on a RMT union picket line with flags and banners

Network Rail workers were part of the strikes that began last June (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Bosses are finding new ways to attack trade unions as well as using anti-union laws, the media and government support.

They are excluding strikers from payouts that go to other workers.

Network Rail management is refusing to pay bonuses to those who went on strike in a months-long dispute with the state-owned rail network operator. The bonus is expected to be worth around £300 this year.

The decision could hit up to 20,000 RMT union members who staged a series of walkouts over an eight-month period in a fight over pay and attacks on conditions.

The dispute ended in March when RMT members voted to accept a below-inflation 9 percent pay rise over two years.

RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said on Tuesday, “The decision to exclude trade unionists from this bonus scheme is disgraceful.

“The stance adopted by Network Rail both penalises and discriminates against members for exercising their human right to associate and to participate in lawful trade union activities. However, legal protections only exist for those who are unfairly dismissed for taking part in lawful strike or other industrial action which is called officially.”

In an email to members, he said, “As the bonus scheme is discretionary, and not a contractual obligation, the decision to exclude RMT members has been taken in bad faith and is a transparent attempt to divide the workforce and undermine your union, by specifically rewarding those who refused to stand in solidarity with union members taking essential strike action.”

In short, Lynch’s message to workers is—this is bad, but bosses can do this, and the law is probably not going to help you.

In which case it’s doubly important that the RMT takes up this issue as part of its battle that will see strikes on Saturday.

Otherwise, more bosses may see this sort of financial punishment for strikers as a normal part of their armoury.

Everyone knows you lose pay when you strike, but this is going further and seeking other penalties—and it’s already spreading.

University managers have imposed punitive deductions on workers who boycotted marking and assessment. This was only a very small part of their job, but some universities docked 100 percent of wages—and their UCU union’s response has been wholly inadequate.

And strikers in the recently-ended St Mungo’s battle say strikers will receive less than non-strikers in a backdated settlement.

Unions have to stop this scourge from going wider.

  • RMT demo: No to ticket office closures, Thursday 31 August, assemble 5pm, Department for Transport, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR. Marches at 5.30pm for a rally at 6pm opposite 10 Downing Street

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