Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1133/32497
RMT general secretary election
RMT: Militant industrial and political strategy must be fought for
Socialist Party members in RMT
The election of Mick Lynch as general secretary of the RMT transport union comes at a crucial time for our union.
The government is now set on a course of emerging from social distancing and lockdown, and with that demand will return for transport services. But it is far from clear how fast demand will return and to what level. Fare revenue is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time, creating financial pressure on the rail and transport industries.
This would be bad enough if we were just facing the financial costs of Covid, but the national rail industry, bus industry and regional authorities responsible for transport, such as London Underground, were already confronting government demands for massive cuts before Covid hit.
These problems also face the maritime members of RMT, who entered the Covid pandemic already engaged in a struggle against casualisation and an international race to the bottom on pay and conditions.
Recognising this, RMT adopted a policy of resisting all redundancies and job cuts during the pandemic. More recently, RMT has also stated its opposition to the government public sector pay freeze, which is being imposed, at the insistence of the Department for Transport, by both Network Rail and the privately owned train operating companies and contractors.
The Socialist campaigned for Steve Hedley in the general secretary election because he put forward the case for a militant industrial and political strategy to meet the coming showdown. But Socialist Party members in RMT welcome the comments of Mick Lynch in the press after his election committing RMT to a determined defence of jobs and pay. His success as general secretary will be measured by how effectively this can be put into action.
Socialist Party members in the union will support and seek to build a national campaign to defend jobs and pay. This will require a mobilisation of officers, reps and members to build rallies, both online and physical, the production of regular propaganda and a constant media presence.
There is evidence that RMT members are now responding to the slow emergence out of lockdown with a renewed determination that transport workers will not pay for the pandemic with jobs and inferior terms of employment. Several important ballots for strike action have been won in recent weeks.
RMT has been seen as playing a leading role in industrial militancy and the defence of jobs and conditions in Britain. But the union has also led on political issues. RMT was thrown out of the Labour Party for supporting Scottish Socialist Party candidates in 2004, and in 2018 a special general meeting voted against reaffiliating to the Labour Party.
The reality is that renationalisation and an end to government demands for cuts to transport budgets is the only sure guarantee of RMT members pay and conditions.
Labour under Keir Starmer is firmly set on a course of continuing Labour's local authority cuts. In London, Sadiq Khan has been re-elected as Labour mayor and has published plans to impose jobs cuts and pension cuts on Transport for London workers, as well as seeking road pricing, additional council tax charges and even an additional rate of VAT in London to make London's working class replace government support for public transport in the capital.
As well as keeping RMT's militant industrial traditions, it is crucial that RMT not only maintains but redoubles efforts to take the debate about how to build a new party of the working class throughout our union.
That means continuing to participate in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, not as a finished alternative but as a first step to pushing the wider trade union movement towards building a bona fide workers' party that will not implement austerity.
In The Socialist 12 May 2021: