Letter: Negotiate an end to the tube strike

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The Independent Online
Sir: Further to Barrie Clement's article (25 July), the underground dispute is not, and never has been, a political dispute, so far as RMT is concerned. It seems to me strange that those trade union officials that Mr Clement alleges are out to "smash capitalism" should start with one of the few industries left in the public sector.

For the record, RMT is the largest union in the rail industry because we have an excellent reputation for professional negotiations. Far from being class warriors, our strategy is simple. We listen to our members. The tube strike is a good example. Last May we put London Underground's offer to our members in a referendum ballot and only eight drivers out of nearly 1,000 voted to accept it.

This should have been the clearest signal to LUL management that they had got things badly wrong but they refused to listen. Eventually we were left with no option but to ballot members again but this time for industrial action. Eighty-five per cent of our driver members voted for industrial action, after LUL made clear they were refusing to honour their promise to reduce the working week. With profits up pounds 69m, driver productivity up more than 4 per cent and LUL's management getting a 20 per cent bonus for improved performance our members have kept their side of the bargain. The simple fact is that LUL will not keep theirs.

Alleging that RMT negotiators are motivated by personal dislike of LUL's management is totally unfair, if not insulting. My negotiating team has always adopted a professional approach. So far in 1996 we have agreed more than 30 separate pay deals with all kinds of different managements. The reason why we cannot reach agreement with LUL is because, unlike these other rail employers, they have reneged on a promise.

Far from being a political conspiracy this dispute has all the hallmarks of a cock-up. The latest evidence of this comes in LUL's claim, made on 25 July, that they had made a "new" offer. This "new" offer was precisely the proposal upon which RMT has already balloted its members and which was rejected with an 85 per cent majority. If LUL do not understand their own proposals it is little wonder the dispute has dragged on.

We at RMT will never let personalities get in the way of a settlement, and in this light I will repeat my plea to LUL to come to ACAS and negotiate, and the sooner the better as far as my members and the travelling public of London are concerned.


General Secretary

National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

London NW1