OVER 15 YEARS of SUB-CONTRACTING has caused havoc in the rail industry, and not least for the people who work in it.
Where once we had central bargaining for standard pay and conditions for all track workers employed on London Underground; there are now many track contractor agencies across the tube who currently want to get as much as they can out of their staff for as little pay and work conditions as possible in return, having no dealing with the RMT. The break-up of full time unionised employment for track workers, like the break-up of the industry itself, was a deliberate act, calculated to push wages and conditions down and profits up.
For sub-contracting track workers themselves the fragmentation has resulted in vastly differing and often poor pay, conditions with no security of employment whatsoever. The worse case scenario which is faced by many sub-contractors on LUL and Tube Lines, is where the agency employing them outsources the pay and personnel aspects of their employment to an accountancy firm, rendering the track worker nominally self-employed but in reality treated as an employee, unable to work out if they’re employed by the agency or the accountancy firm?!
If we are to set the negotiating agenda and improve pay, terms and conditions, safety and welfare, our response must be across all contract and sub-contract companies and agencies on London Underground: and that is the purpose of this charter. RMT’s strength, alongside the experience of more than a century of organising railway workers, is that it is an industrial union uniting those people in all grades from all employers, on every worksite, in every depot: from permanent way platelayers to site supervisors, SPC’s, PMEH’s, HBT’s, track welders, technicians and track cleaners. To combat this, the idea for Charter were sown at a meeting of RMT LU Engineering Branch in 2009, followed by unanimous agreement at the RMT London Transport Regional Council later that same month. A document is being drawn up as a result of consultation with track contractor workers and RMT track reps working for several companies across London Underground and Tube Lines. It will set out the aim of a improving standards for pay, conditions, security of employment, pensions, health & safety, welfare – in short to bring and end to the current severe exploitative conditions faced by track workers and replace them with work conditions fit for the 21st century!
It is not a wish list: our experience tells us that wishing will get us nowhere, and if we are to achieve the aspiration set out in this charter, for all our members in track companies and agencies, we must organise to achieve it. The first step towards bringing this charter to reality is to ensure that every track contractor becomes an RMT member with solid organisation in every workplace, so that if it comes to a fight, we are ready for it.
Our unity is our strength, and together we can win a better deal for all!
Standing together as mates, we can win this battle