On Monday, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) opened their annual general meeting (AGM) in Leeds. The conference came as Eddie Dempsey won the union’s election for Assistant General Secretary.
Addressing members, General Secretary, Mick Lynch, warned that the Conservative government is set to recoup the billions of pounds it spent fighting Covid-19 by attacking workers. The AGM also saw delegates committing to fight for workers suffering long Covid, and addressing the UK government’s role in the cold war on China.
In his address, Mick Lynch highlighted the government’s failed handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, noting how much taxpayer money “was wasted and people lost their lives through the stupidity, ineptitude and incompetence of this government”.
He also spoke on planned cuts to the transport sector, stating: “They want the Rail Industry Recovery Group and Transport for London to deliver billions of cuts via shrinkages to jobs, wages, conditions and pensions. I believe a storm is coming and we have to prepare for it“.
One of the key issues discussed was long Covid, and how companies are failing to support workers suffering these long-term health issues. Effects of Covid-19 include fatigue, poor memory and concentration, dizziness, headaches, and sore throats. Instead of providing supportive measures for workers suffering from long Covid, bosses are treating them as liabilities and putting some at threat of losing their jobs.
Delegate Billy Kimm from Liverpool spoke on the effects of long Covid in their workplace: “Most operating companies say Covid now comes under ‘managing for attendance’ procedures. We have two members at Liverpool Lime Street with long Covid. One in his 30s cannot walk up a set of stairs. Imagine that – someone in their 30s not being able to walk up a set of stairs. What has the company done to help and support him? It has put him in stage one of the managing for attendance process, saying ‘we are looking after you.’ Stage four, you are out of the door.”
A motion passed unanimously, committing the RMT to “fight these developments with all means at our disposal including our various disputes machineries up to and including industrial action.”
Another matter discussed was the union’s perspective on China. Condemnation was made of the new Cold War on China, including the British state’s role in such a campaign. This manifested most prominently in recent years through an extensive disinformation campaign around the treatment of the Uighur minority in China’s Xinjiang region. More recently such a Cold War has switched focus more towards the island of Taiwan, and rising tensions between the island and Chinese mainland. RMT member, Alex Gordon, train driver for Great Western Railway, proposed a visit by members to meet trade unionists in China however, this motion failed to pass.
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch