I'm standing for the RMT Executive, and here is my manifesto ...
JANINE BOOTH: MANIFESTO FOR ELECTION TO LONDON TRANSPORT REPRESENTATIVE, RMT COUNCIL OF EXECUTIVES
I joined London Underground in 1997, and signed up to the RMT straightaway. I now work as a Station Supervisor, and represent station staff in all locations on LU's Stations & Revenue Council, as well as getting involved with and supporting other grades wherever I can. I am the union's Regional Council Secretary, and have been a branch secretary and branch chair in the past.
I am 100% committed to our union, and work tirelessly to build the union and fight for the interests of London Transport workers. Many reps have asked me to stand as they feel that I will stand up for rank-and-file members and improve the union we all believe in.
WHAT WE FACE
London Transport workers - and the whole working class - face an unprecedented onslaught from the new Con-Dem coalition government. The government and our employers are already attacking our jobs and trying to keep our pay down. Attacks on our pensions are not far behind, and workers are suffering a discipline clampdown and daily indignities from employers with no respect for our rights. The GLA Tories want to introduce driverless Tube trains, and our employers will see the Olympics as an opportunity to try out new forms of casualised working that they can use in the future.
In the face of this, we need a more effective trade union: one that is relevant and good to get involved with, and through which workers can defend our jobs and conditions and win a better life at work. We can not carry on ticking over or doing things in a particular way just because we have always done them that way. The RMT needs to be progressive and I believe I can help with this.
It would be better if we had one union for all workers in our industry, but until we get that, we need to build unity in action and to make RMT as big and effective as possible.
MORE DEMOCRACY, LESS BUREAUCRACY
Our union needs to become more democratic, with rank-and-file members having more say. I know that many members and activists find it very frustrating when we work hard for union campaigns and disputes only for decisions to be taken above our heads.
I would aim to be an Executive member who represents rank-and-file views to the leadership, rather than representing the leadership's views to the rank-and-file! I will be told what to do by you, not by national leaders.
I will only propose to the Executive that a strike is put on, or called off, or a new policy agreed with an employer, following discussion and agreement by reps, branches and members. And if we don't agree amongst each other, we'll have a vote.
The union should make decisions about disputes that the members involved in that dispute want it to. The Executive member is crucial to making this happen. I have always stood up for this principle; last year even pursuing to the union's AGM an appeal to say that the Executive should consider listening to a members' meeting before setting strike dates!
Democracy also means accountability. I have always tried to make myself as accountable as possible in my union roles, for example by giving regular reports and visiting branch meetings when I can.
Throughout my involvement in the union, I have always sought to make it less bureaucratic, by circulating information, providing more transparency, reducing jargon, pushing for policy decisions to be implemented rather than ignored, and promoting changes to rules that extend democracy. I would now like to pursue this at the level of the union's national executive.
AN ALL GRADES UNION
RMT represents workers in many grades and companies under the TfL 'umbrella'.
As Regional Council Secretary, I have worked closely with reps, branches and members in all these grades and companies, and have continually championed those grades which feel sidelined or ignored. No grade of workers should feel like second-class citizens in the RMT.
Our different grades need action:
- LU station staff fighting job cuts
- cleaners who have won the London Living Wage and now want to go on to win decent holidays, sick pay, travel facilities and freedom from harrassment, bullying and denial of immigration rights
- engineering and fleet workers, coming back into the public sector after the PPP fiasco, and determined to ensure that they are not made to pay the price of the private sector's profiteering
- LU drivers opposing dangerous changes to their working procedures and promoting all-grades trade unionism in a grade divided into two unions
- staff in TfL, who are divided into even more unions, and who need RMT to become bigger, stronger and more effective
- LU service control, battling the effects of a restructuring process that has divided workers
- admin grades, where RMT is not as strong as it could be
- other groups of members, from DLR to Taxi drivers, Alstom to CBS Outdoor, security guards to catering staff, who need to be brought in from the periphery into the centre of our union.
Most of all, we need all these grades organising together, taking up each grade's particular concern but always promoting common demands, seeking to 'level-up' to the best pay and conditions, and acting in a united way. I have actively supported all the grades mentioned above, for example by publicising their campaigns and issues around the rest of the Region, providing training and support to reps, getting grades committees set up, and taking part in protests and picket lines.
(RMT has now decided not to organise or seek recognition for London bus drivers. But having accepted them into membership for several years before making this decision, it needs to work out a way of implementing its policy that addresses their concerns.)
COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION
Knowledge is power! The more workers know about our rights, the better equipped we are to assert them. The more we know about our own and others' pay and conditions, the more we can see inequalities and demand improvements. And the more we know about how our union works and what it is doing, the more ordinary members can put forward our own views about what the union should do.
Both as a station staff rep and Regional Council Secretary, I believe that I have significantly improved information and communications for members. I set up the 'RMT Platform' and 'RMT London Calling' websites, and produced newsletters of the same names. I have also encouraged and trained reps to use the websites and produce newsletters, so we probably have more rank-and-file communication than ever before.
We need to pursue this agenda nationally too. There have been big steps forward, but national communications are still too top-down. In particular, I would like to see RMT News report on rank-and-file views of campaigns and disputes, not just the General Secretary's!
It doesn't matter what the union does in committee meetings if it is not relevant or organised in the workplace. I have pushed an 'organising agenda' within the union: supporting reps, organising training, recruiting more members, unionising in new areas, trying to get more reps recognised (whether industrial relations reps, health & safety reps, learner reps or harrassment reps), helping the reps we already have to be more effective, encouraging members to get active in many different ways.
I aim to take this approach to the union nationally, always trying to ensure that its organising approach is led by, and relevant to, rank-and-file workers, and that it understands and addresses the reasons why some workers don't join our union - in order to persuade them that they should!
Effective organising also means providing the best possible representation for members who need it. This includes legal support when you need it - an area where the union is currently falling short.
STANDING UP TO EMPLOYERS
I have represented union members at every level, from the local workplace to the Company Council, speaking up for individuals, grades and the workforce as a whole.
I always put our case as strongly as possible, and am not overawed by management. A particular highlight was giving a presentation to LU management explaining that all the top managers should take a hefty pay cut rather than cutting frontline staff's jobs! But I know that our real strength in negotiations comes from how strong and well-organised we are in the workplace.
We need an Executive member who will always argue our case as effectively as possible, but who understands that talks only succeed when the union is putting pressure on the company through action.
EQUALITY YES, DISCRIMINATION NO
RMT is a union for rail and transport workers of all races, both men and women, young and old. It must challenge discrimination and champion the rights of all its members, always seeking to promote unity and overcome division.
I have always been an active anti-racist, am a former chair of the union's national women's advisory committee, and actively oppose homophobia, age discrimination and all forms of prejudice.
RMT's committees for women, young members, lebsian/gay/bi/trans and black & ethnic minority members must go beyond being talking shops. At the moment, they are just 'advisory', and nothing comes of their discussions unless Executive members ensure that they are enacted. I will do this.
LOOKING OUTWARDS, WINNING SUPPORT
RMT's campaigns, for example against staffing cuts and privatisation, are also campaigns which benefit our passengers, and can attract support from trade unions in other industries. But RMT has to put more effort into asking for that support!
We need to link up with other unions in the transport industry and beyond, so that we can support each others' efforts. I have been involved with my local trades council in Hackney, where we campaigned against East London Line privatisation and are now supporting RMT's campaign against job cuts.
I have consistently advocated and taken part in public campaigns alongside our workplace struggles. I organised the public leafleting and petitioning which helped stop LU's last attempt to close ticket offices. I am currently working hard on the 'SOS: Staff Our Stations' campaign, which fights against job cuts both in workplaces and among passengers. Although public opinion on its own does not win our battles, it does help, and it boosts the morale of our own members.
WINNING OUR BATTLES
RMT needs to run its disputes more effectively. We can not continue to allow pay disputes to run for eight months or even longer, sapping members' morale. Disputes need to be better organised, action more decisive. The union should consider paying hardship money to strikers as other unions do. It should use 'action short of strikes' more often and with some imagination!
The union should give members support in standing up for themselves and taking action at work, for example refusing to do unsafe work, and insisting that managers respect our rights and agreements.
The union must also step up its campaigning to win the repeal of the anti-union laws which shackle us and other unions and which aim to prevent us using our democratic rights.
I have promoted ideas such as this as a rank-and-file activist, and now, with your support, want to promote them on the union's natioanl executive.
A POLITICAL UNION
RMT needs to be political, because political issues affect our members - whether it is child benefit cuts or anti-union laws, climate change or education policies. The union can most effectively involve members in supporting these issues if it is doing an effective job on workplace issues. RMT's international solidarity should be based on links with workers not regimes, and on practical solidarity rather than jet-setting!
RMT should continue to work with those Labour MPs who stand up for our interests, such as John McDonnell, and support candidates against the mainstream parties where this is credible and represents genuine working-class interests.
I am a socialist, and have been active in community and other campaigns as well as trade unionism.
VOTE JANINE BOOTH
- 100% committed
- more democracy, less bureaucracy
- a relevant, effective union
- all grades count
- keeping you informed
- effective organisation at work
- standing up for rank-and-file members
- supporting equality, opposing discrimination
- a campaigning, outward-looking, political union
- solidarity amongst ourselves and with other working-class people
- a proven record of fighting for - and carrying out - these principles