Letter: Members' struggle for RMT assistance

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Sir: James Knapp is wrong in his letter about discrimination on London Underground (12 April) when he states that we chose to receive advice from other agencies initially. Many of us approached our union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers for assistance first.

London Underground Ltd had at first proposed that we would have to apply for our own jobs again. It was also proposed that if we were appointed again, we would be on probation and would receive less wages and fewer holidays. The RMT, and all the other unions that were involved, did not oppose these proposals on behalf of station managers or ticket inspectors, most of whom happened to be black.

It was as a result of the lack of representation from the unions that we felt that we had to organise separately into a pressure group, now called the Transport Workers Legal Action Committee. Even after we had formed the group, we always invited representatives from the RMT and other unions to all our meetings, hoping they would assist us. However, not one official of the RMT came to our meetings.

I can confidently say that it was a result of pressure from TWLAC that London Underground Ltd agreed that we would be allowed to assimilate into the new structure without having to be on probation. After the reorganisation, we again asked the RMT to assist us about the fact that our wages had been cut and about the fact that the Performance Related Pay Scheme was being operated in a discriminatory way. To one of our requests for help at a meeting with management, the RMT replied that RMT Executive did not attend ad hoc meetings organised by ad hoc groups.

Therefore, we were very sceptical when RMT's lawyers wrote to our representatives asking whether it could assist us with the cases that were, by this time, well advanced. Furthermore, we did not want the RMT to feel that it had made amends by just offering us some assistance towards counsel's fees. We had told the Committee for Racial Equality that it should not accept any assistance from the RMT on our behalf at that time.

However, we would very much like to discuss with the RMT the issue of proper representation of black people and we very much hope that the RMT will in the future play a much fuller role in significant race cases. We hope that they continue to defend their members in British Rail and that the interests of black workers there are being properly considered.

Yours faithfully,


(On behalf of the Transport

Workers Legal Action Committee)

London, N11