Tube workers and their supporters on picket lines in 2022 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The RMT held a meeting for industrial reps across the London Underground on Thursday of last week to discuss our latest pay offer.

The company had wanted us to accept 5 percent. But the union called a week of strikes across the network, forcing London mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene. 

Strikes began on the evening of Friday 5 January. By the Sunday Khan had “discovered” an extra £30 million.

We now have an improved offer, and I had expected the meeting to be celebratory. However the regional organiser, Jared Wood, was more nuanced. This may be partly because some members are unhappy with the offer and because it’s below inflation for most grades.

It gives workers £1,000 on top of the 5 percent. This gives the lowest paid grades higher percentage rises —something the RMT had argued for. We also have extra payments to lower paid staff. But these are small in cash terms.

For instance, my grade, CSA1, gets an extra £200 “uplift” and CSA2s, who earn less, get an extra £400. But a few hundred pounds across an entire year isn’t much, especially compared to how much prices have gone up.

The biggest opposition is from engineering, signals and other grades representing tube workers on significantly higher pay. 

The offer caps increases to salary bands at £99,500. So someone on £98,000 would get 5 percent plus £1,000 —a rise of £5,900. But only £1,500 of that would be consolidated, affecting pensions and future pay.

Socialist Worker readers will probably wonder why we should worry about people on these kinds of salaries. 

But those opposing the offer argued that if we accept an unconsolidated pay rise for some, others could be next. Several pointed out that the RMT prides itself on being an “all-grades union,” which means fighting for everyone.

Some also argued that accepting this offer would alienate some members and could weaken the union industrially.

A majority were for accepting, but the section arguing to reject was not insignificant. It was good that there was genuine debate. Lots of members on the tube want to accept and move on, not least because they’re tired of waiting for their money— this pay deal actually dates back to April 2023.

Some in the union had argued that we couldn’t have a pay dispute at the same time as our jobs and pensions one. 

This delayed the start of our dispute, and the strike ballot didn’t begin until November.

The situation isn’t the most straightforward, because several things are true at once. It’s undoubtedly the case that workers should be applauded for being prepared to take the kind of action that won us more money. An extra £30 million isn’t nothing. And this offer gives the lower paid grades higher percentage rises for the first time.

At the same time, it’s below inflation for most people (average inflation for the period being around 9 percent). That’s a real terms pay cut. 

Wood told the meeting that the union can’t make a habit of accepting below-inflation offers. But why should we accept any at all?

Since I’ve been in the union, several activists have proudly said that the union never accepts offers that are below RPI inflation. They won’t be able to say that any more.

I think there’s sometimes a lack of confidence about what we can achieve and about members’ willingness to fight. Before the strikes began in January, some wanted to suspend the action. Had that happened, the £30 million would never have materialised.

Ultimately we’ve shown that being prepared to take hard-hitting action gets results – and that when we’re told there’s no money, this isn’t the case. We need to remember that in future struggles.

Around 400 Hitachi Rail workers across the East Coast mainline rail network began eight days of strikes last Saturday. The RMT union members walked out at the Craigentinny in Edinburgh, Bounds Green and Doncaster maintenance depots.

 The action continues on a series of dates until 24 February. The workers maintain rolling stock and signalling for the LNER company. The workers previously struck from 27 January to 1 February.

RMT members at London North Pole depot, who maintain the fleet for the Great Western mainline for Hitachi Rail, could soon join the action. They have been voting on whether to strike over pay in a ballot that closed this week. Strikes could begin next month

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