Mick Cash marks RMT leadership win with fresh strike action
Union unveils new spate of industrial action as it chooses former railway maintenance worker to succeed Bob Crow, who died unexpectedly in the spring
Mick Cash has been elected general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), replacing controversial former leader Bob Crow, who died in March. Watford-born Cash has been a member of the RMT – and its predecessor, the National Union of Railwaymen – for 35 years, and had served as Crow’s deputy for 12 years. After Crow’s death from a suspected heart attack, he took the RMT’s reins as acting general secretary.
Following his work in that role, the 54-year-old former railway engineer beat four competitors – Alan Pottage, Steve Hedley, John leach and Alex Gordon – in the vote for the top job. In a statement, Cash said he was “proud and honoured” to be given the “enormous responsibility” of heading up the union.
“I want to thank the membership of RMT for giving me an overwhelming mandate as the newly elected General Secretary,” he said. “I am proud and honoured to have been given the enormous responsibility of now taking our fighting and militant union forwards, six months after the bitter loss to the Labour Movement of Bob Crow.”
In recent years, the Crow-led RMT grabbed headlines with its battles against rail companies, not to mention politicians such as Boris Johnson, as Crow fought to maintain jobs, salaries and working conditions through bouts of industrial action. Under the East Londoner – who took over following the death of Jimmy Knapp in 2002 – RMT membership swelled by more than 20,000 to 80,000, and Cash says he will not be swayed from his predecessor’s strategy.
“Let me make this clear,” he announced. “There will be no deviation from the industrial, political and organising strategy mapped out by RMT under Bob’s leadership. Our fight on pay, jobs, working conditions, pensions and safety continues on every front and in every industry where we organise members.”
He added: “I want to thank the other four candidates for what has been a comradely and hard-fought campaign that has engaged RMT members the length and breadth of the country. RMT stands united and determined in the ongoing struggles we are engaged in on London Underground, on the railways, offshore, in the shipping industry and on the roads and buses. This union is in fighting shape for the battles that we know lie ahead.”
The RMT heralded the first of those battles just hours before Cash was confirmed as RMT leader. In his last media statement as acting general secretary, Cash announced a new spate of London Tube walkouts over proposed ticket-office closures, which threaten around 900 jobs. From midnight on Wednesday, the union said, members would be under an overtime ban that will run until further notice, and include several layers of specialist staff. According to the RMT, the ban is a warning to an Underground management “hell-bent” on pushing ahead with modernisation plans, despite months of talks.
Cash said: “This next phase of action has been called for the clear and simple reason that London Underground has failed to engage in serious discussions over cash-led cuts to jobs, services and safety. In fact, as a Freedom of Information request by members of the GLA has revealed, the cuts are being bulldozed through without any mandate, and in total ignorance of the public consultation being carried out by London Travel Watch. RMT is also aware that the staffing cuts figures supplied under the FOI massage and understate the true scale of job cuts. That is simply outrageous.”
London Underground chief operating officer Phil Hufton said in response: “We have been in dialogue with the trades unions now for the last 10 months and we have continued to brief and involve our staff over our plans to modernise and improve customer service on the Tube. We will continue with these discussions as our plans develop further.”
A member of the Labour Party, Cash appeared at a fringe meeting at the party’s Manchester conference on Sunday urging shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh to renationalise British railways. Other concerns Cash’s agenda will be Transport for London’s plans to introduce fully automated, driverless trains to the network, which will put drivers’ jobs at risk. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has called for more decisive strike ballots, whereby walkouts would be considered illegal unless a minimum 50% of staff vote to participate.
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