GAH!!!! So the rail strike may start again next week. That’s a pain. From what I can tell (again, but I’ve done more research this time), the RMT is striking because there was a UK-wide agreement on a cutback to 35 hours a week and Network Rail in Scotland has not implemented plans that have gone through in other parts of Britain.
Network Rail says what worked in England may not work in Scotland, and the RMT says Network Rail attempted to switch shifts from 12 hours over three days to eight hours, cancelled safety briefing days (unconfirmed on the Network Rail site), and have carried out ‘rule book’ testing in signal boxes. Also, since the strike started, the RMT have accused Network Rail of placing ‘scab’ managers in the signal boxes who are inadequately trained (Network Rail says the replacement managers are well-enough trained, thank you very much, but then they would, wouldn’t they). Network Rail says they have offered, on more than one occasion, to go to Acas. The RMT have completely rejected this, saying that decisions made in arbitration with Acas are not enforceable, despite BBC Radio Scotland pointing out that it can be if both parties agree to abide by the decisions.
Let’s take this one at a time. I think (and Neil was the one to point this out) that eight-hour shifts are surely safer for passengers than 12. I don’t see any issue with testing at all — are the RMT signallers incapable of doing their jobs and cannot stand up to testing? Network Rail have had to bring in other signal managers BECAUSE of this bloody strike, because they need to provide some service, and RMT is directly responsible for that. The fact that the RMT has categorically rejected any sort of arbitration and dispute resolution through Acas lays bare their intention to make all our lives difficult.
(Aside: this morning, the SNP’s Feargal Something Or Other — why is it always the SNP who like to show how unfit for government they are — said the “First Minister Jack McConnell” and “Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Tavish Scott” should be held accountable because the government puts money into the rail network and should have resolved the dispute, even though Network Rail is a private company. He banged on and on, repeating their names over and over again, accusing them of doing nothing, ignoring the fact that if the government had spent time on it the SNP would then accuse them of sticking their noses in a private company’s affairs when they should be concentrating on governing. And so the cheap political soundbites continue in anticipation of May’s election.)
The more I read and hear about this dispute, the more disgusted I am with the RMT. Sure, I agree that if a company is trying to exploit its workers, they have a right to industrial action (even though I’m Singaporean). However, in this case, the RMT has shown quite conclusively that they are not willing to even try and compromise, neglecting their professional responsibilities, and being completely and utterly selfish. I have no sympathy for their Scottish signallers, who appear to be on a great deal, well-recompensed for a job with amazingly short hours, and yet they are demanding to dictate all terms of employment to their employer.
Who the hell do they think they are? Bring on automation, I say!
RMT strike in Scotland continues, Network Rail, undated
48-hour strike action by RMT signal workers in Scotland over safety issues and the failure to implement a 35-hour week to go ahead, RMT, 3 March 2007
Scottish signallers’ strike ‘rock solid’, says RMT, RMT, 7 March 2007
Union slammed for not using Acas, BBC news, 8 March 2007