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Rail unions battle over pensions
THE RAIL network across the whole of Britain looks to be heading for a long hot summer of discontent. The four rail unions, RMT, TSSA, ASLEF and the CSEU have joined forces in an attempt to safeguard their members' pensions.
Gordon Martin, branch secretary Wishaw and Motherwell RMT, personal capacity
The unions have made four demands of every rail company: Cap employee contributions at 10.56%, keep benefits at their current level, streamline the pension schemes from the current 103 to just three.
This would mean one scheme for train operating companies, one for all infrastructure and engineering companies and one for all other grades. The final demand is the pension scheme must remain open to all employees.
So far the unions have lobbied the Westminster parliament, held talks with the Department of Transport and continued talks with the various profiteers who are mismanaging the rail network, in an attempt to resolve the pensions crisis.
Labour MPs have also raised the issue in parliament with early day motion 1681, in the name of John McDonnell and 45 other MPs, urging the government to: "Do all within its power to protect the pensions of rail workers."
The threatened closure of some sections of the pension schemes, along with dramatic increases in employee contributions and cuts in benefits have left the unions with no choice other than to ballot the membership for industrial action.
In recent months the four general secretaries have toured Britain, explaining the situation to packed-out meetings.
Unfortunately, with just days to go before ballot papers would be sent out to the members, train drivers' union ASLEF have broken the unity of the campaign and signed agreements with a number of the train operating companies.
Despite this, the other unions seem determined to ballot for industrial action across the whole network.
This fight to safeguard our deferred wages is one we can and must win, not just for this generation of rail workers but for the generations to follow.
We need a clear and correct strategy, tactics that remain militant and flexible and the union leaderships keeping the activists and members involved at all stages of the dispute.
Then we will be able to force the profiteers and the government into taking the necessary steps to protect our pensions.
I believe we can turn this defensive action into a fight to provide rail workers with a safe and secure future. The union leaders and activists could use a victory here to build the confidence of the members into fighting for other benefits.
As a first step we should demand harmonisation of all terms and conditions, a shorter working week and an end to the corporate killings of our members, due to profit being placed before safety.
Nationalise the railways and put the network under the democratic control of the workers and transport users.
In The Socialist 18 May 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Campaign for a New Workers Party
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis