Latest Rail News

06.02.15

Is LU saying the RMT pressures its members to vote for strikes?

The ongoing dispute between militant rail union RMT and London Underground over the sacking of a train driver due to a failed alcohol breath test took an interesting turn this week.

In December Northern Line drivers walked out in support of their colleague, Alex McGuigan, as RMT said that in his case the breath test could have been detecting his diabetes rather than alcohol.

London Underground sent out a release this week disputing this, it said: “LU’s industry-leading ‘fuel cell’ breathalyzer equipment is not affected in any way by diabetes. It is affected by an individual’s alcohol consumption choices”, and urged all RMT members to vote against a strike on the impending ballot.

But it is at the end of the release where things got interesting. LU seems to imply that RMT members may be getting pressured into voting for strike action.

The release says: “LU has reassured staff that the RMT ballots are conducted by an independent organisation – the Electoral Reform Service – and are fully confidential.  No ballot paper can be traced back to any individual.”

There would be no reason to make such a statement if there was not a concern about members feeling pressured to vote in a certain manner, and fearing repercussions if they don’t. Whether it is just a media tactic or a legitimate concern, LU are definitely pointing the finger at some supposed untoward practices happening at RMT.

And it is an easy claim to make. There is possibly no other union in the UK quite as aggressive as the RMT – nor, it must be said, any as successful at achieving results for its members.

Mick Cash, like the late Bob Crow before him, goes gung-ho at the slightest provocation and his statements and press releases read more like declarations of war than attempts to negotiate and raise issues. What member wouldn’t feel under some pressure to vote for what the union wants and fear retribution if they don’t?

No doubt, now that LU has pointed the finger, Cash will huff and puff and be insulted at this “dastardly, underhanded tactic”, but while it might not be intentional, can Cash honestly say the way he acts doesn’t put undue pressure on union members?

(Image source: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Cedric   10/02/2015 at 01:39

I think the LU stance is not so much that there is 'pressure' on members to vote a certain way, but is designed more to appeal to those RMT members who don't agree with strike action, to encourage them to vote, rather than abstain. The issue is always that those who vote in strike ballots are usually those that want the strike. Those who don't, tend not to vote, meaning the strike goes ahead with only a minority of those eligible actually having voted. [example figures quoted] The union then says that there was an overwhelming mandate for a strike as 85% of those who voted, voted yes. LU always says 'but only 88 out of a possible 270 actually voted', so the strike didn't get a majority of members, just a majority of those who voted. I think this is LU's attempt to persuade a bigger number of RMT members to actually vote in the hope that this would lead to a majority 'no vote'. Either way, the more people who take part in the vote, the better it is for democracy.

Neil Palmer   11/02/2015 at 03:31

The law should be changed such that a majority of those eligible to vote must vote in favour of strike action, not a majority of those who vote. This turns the tables and favours those against strike action, as opposed to the radical boshy communits (sic) who, like Mick Cash and his predecessor, think it's OK to strike in support of a train driver caught drinking on the job.

Neil Palmer   11/02/2015 at 03:34

The law should be changed such that a majority of those eligible to vote must vote in favour of strike action, not a majority of those who vote. This turns the tables and favours those against strike action, as opposed to the radical bolshy communits (sic) who, like Mick Cash and his predecessor, think it's OK to strike in support of a train driver caught drinking on the job.

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