Rail disruption looms as union battle begins

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The battle for the leadership of Britain's biggest rail union begins this week with the favourite for the job pledged to step up disruption of train services in pursuit of better pay and conditions for the industry's 40,000 workers.

The battle for the leadership of Britain's biggest rail union begins this week with the favourite for the job pledged to step up disruption of train services in pursuit of better pay and conditions for the industry's 40,000 workers.

Bob Crow, the hard-left assistant general secretary of the RMT rail union, would also campaign to cut the union's links with the Labour Party. The RMT is one of Labour's principal financial donors – a forerunner organisation helped to establish the party in 1906.

If Mr Crow wins the election, observers believe he will steer the union towards a policy of industrial militancy backed by strikes. The election is expected to be close, however. His main rival, Phil Bialyk, is an official for the RMT in the south-west region and a supporter of "old Labour" policies. Mr Bialyk's pragmatic approach is similar to that of the former RMT leader Jimmy Knapp, whose death last month created the vacancy, and Downing Street will be hoping that he secures the post.

The fight for the leadership comes amid signs of increasing unrest on the railways. Fresh industrial action is expected this week at the train company c2c, which operates services between London and Essex. The operator is expected to introduce an emergency timetable today which will reduce capacity by 20 per cent. RMT members are also being balloted on industrial action over a pay offer from London Underground.

A motion is expected to be tabled today at the TUC conference calling for Railtrack to be returned to the public sector as the first step in renationalising the entire network.

If Mr Crow realises his ambition of leading the RMT he is likely to set up an alliance with Mick Rix, the hard-left leader of the train drivers' union Aslef, who believes industrial action should be used to force concessions from rail companies.

Comments