Freesteel Blog » The stupidity of the railway workers union and Brexit

The stupidity of the railway workers union and Brexit

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 at 1:35 pm Written by:

Someone who works on the railways told me that his Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) was one of the big unions in the UK that supported Brexit.

I wanted the check why, having recalled doing some research about railway policy and the EU (reported in a blog entry from May 2016) following some crappy speech from Boris Johnson about the nasty EU using an ECJ ruling to run their freight trains on our national tracks in preference to our patriotic privatized passenger trains.

The problem is that if a factory in Hungary wants to send 5000 tonnes of cheap sausage meat to the UK, they can put this into 200 lorries and drive them all the way to their destination on our roads, causing lots of pollution, and traffic jams getting in the way, and Boris doesn’t complain. But lord help us that they might possibly put this load onto a more efficient train and expect it to get through to its destination unspoilt.

You’d think that railway unions would be in favour of legally binding international agreements to increase the guarenteed capacity of the railway. But it turns out that Brexit stupidity is not all on the Conservative Party side.

In a Press release on 21 April 2016 the RMT wrote:

The European Parliament’s decision this week to back the opening up of all rail routes across the EU to more competition for private operators was just one more reason to vote Leave on June 23, transport union RMT said today.

Under the proposals in the EU’s so-called Fourth Railway Package, train operators would have complete access to the networks of member states to operate domestic passenger services.

The European Council had already agreed that mandatory competitive tendering should be the main way of awarding public service contracts.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said that the failed Tory privatisation of rail over twenty years ago using EU directive 91/440 was now being imposed on 500 million people by EU diktat without a mandate.

“This rail package is designed to privatise railways across Europe and its proposals are remarkably similar to the McNulty report on the future of GB railways, imposing further fragmentation and attacks on workers.

“McNulty, the Tory government and the EU share the business-led mania for privatisation and agree on the need to jack up fares and attack jobs, pay and pensions to pay for it, no-one has voted for that.

“It is impossible to make changes to this privatisation juggernaut inside the undemocratic EU so the only solution is to get out by voting Leave on June 23,” he said.

None of this makes sense.

How can we believe that the EU — every other country of which runs a nationalized rail service — is going to impose privatization on the UK whose railways are already privatized?

Also, I do recall that we had a Labour Government for thirteen years post-privatization, who carried on with the private railways policy at vast expense of money and political capital, only nationalizing the trackways themselves after a series of lethal accidents and a bankruptcy when it had no alternative. Now there were serious issues as to the democracy within the Labour Party during that time, which resulted in the RMT breaking from the party in 2004. This history needs to be remembered, because it indicates that the EU is not the source of our problems.

Later that year, after the referendum, the RMT wrote in November 2016:

MEPs have a critical vote on the future of our railways taking place on 12-15 December 2016. Privatisation of rail passenger services could be imposed on all member states if new EU regulations are passed into legislation. Even though the UK is leaving the EU, regulations in the Fourth Railway Package could still apply to the UK for years to come…

The Fourth Railway Package must be stopped. Please email your MEP before 12 December to let them know that you want them to vote against the Fourth Railway Package.

Oh yeah, what was that bit about the undemocratic EU?

It’s so bad and incoherent.

A fact checking organization looked at the case in June 2016, three days before the referendum, and concluded:

The pending changes to EU rail regulation, known as the fourth railway package, don’t require member states to privatise any aspect of their rail networks. Neither do they require any member to break up its national operator.

There was an initial proposal for rail infrastructure and services to be split into separate organisations, which would have meant breaking up national operators, but the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, directly intervened and it was dropped…

The new EU regulations promote competition for the market between rail operators irrespective of ownership structure, but not privatisation. As far as renationalisation is concerned the reality is that, unless the rules are interpreted in an extreme way, they do not make it any easier or more difficult than the structure in place at the moment.

The RMT did support a No2EU party that ran in the 2009 and 2014 EU elections garnering about 0.3% of the vote in the second poll, so was quite a waste of time.

What we’re seeing is an unreasoned, illogical, incoherent, counterproductive hatred of the EU from a large union who has a lot of sway with the current Labour Party. I can’t see where it comes from, because from the point of view of railways and transport, the EU and its structures are beneficial. They bring in a semblance of order, integration, interoperability, purpose and reliability that is essential for any transport infrastructure to serve society’s needs.

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