United we stand? The Southern Rail dispute and the unions

Southern's Brighton to London service

Southern’s Brighton to London service

117 years ago, my great-great grandad, president of the Amalgamated Society of railway servants (ASRS), sat down in a meeting between the executives of ASRS and the Associated Society of locomotive engineers and firemen (ASLEF) to discuss federation. Had they succeeded in establishing unity between the rail unions back then, I might not be writing this article now. The TUC and rail management have used Victorian-era sectional craft differences to divide railway workers. I hope to explain what has happened in relation to the dispute on Southern Rail and the role of the TUC and ASLEF. I am aware that the railway runs on a level of jargon and acronym that approaches another language so please forgive the mini railway rules refresher! Continue reading

Mick Cash, new RMT leader, promises “no deviation” from Bob Crow’s approach

Mick CashMick Cash, deputy to Bob Crow for 12 years until his tragic death in March, was this week elected to succeed him as general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT). He first joined its predecessor, the National Union of Railwaymen, 35 years ago as a track worker. Mick won by an overwhelming majority over four other contestants, winning 52% of the vote against 23% for his nearest rival on a 20% poll. In a statement on the RMT website, Mick Cash said:

Let me make this clear. There will be no deviation from the industrial, political and organising strategy mapped out by RMT under Bob’s leadership. Our fight on pay, jobs, working conditions, pensions and safety continues on every front and in every industry where we organise members.”

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Bob Crow’s funeral (video)

Thousands of trade unionists today paid tribute to RMT general secretary Bob Crow as along the route of his traditional East End funeral in which his coffin was carried in a horse-drawn carriage. Banners were displayed along the route from the RMT and other trade unions as well as left organisations such as the Stop The War Coalition, which he supported. 

Bob Crow: a reporter’s story

Bob CrowIt was just another average afternoon as a news reporter. I’d bagged a good story and was now waiting for the train back home. Suddenly I see Bob Crow along with other RMT activists waiting to board the same train. He’d only met me on a handful of occasions but he still knew me by first name.

Immediately he asked if I wanted to travel with him and his colleagues. I accepted and the next hour and a half flew by, with a mixture of hardnosed union politics, two beers each and laugh-out-loud comedy, much of it provided by Bob with his colleagues getting in a few friendly digs along the way. That was the measure of the man: politics infused with humanity. Continue reading

The tragic death of Bob Crow – a great union leader

100869 RMT News Februaryalwc.pdf, page 3 @ Preflight ( 100869 RMBob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, has tragically died at the age of 52. According to a statement from the RMT, he died in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It has now been reported that he suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed into Whipps Cross hospital in Leytonstone by ambulance at about 7am, but had suffered critical heart damage as a result of an aneurysm and could not be revived.

Plaudits have been pouring in from across the Labor movement and beyond, including from people with whom he clashed and people who strongly disagreed with his politics. Continue reading