The RMT’s threat to hold a strike ballot (The Independent, Wednesday 3rd December 2003) following the dismissal of four employees by Metronet raises the suggestion of hypocrisy by the union.
These employees were accused of – and ultimately sacked for – drinking on London Underground property. It is wholly possible they were unfortunate victims of a miscarriage of justice. However the threat by their union to bring London to a standstill is not the appropriate way in which to prove their claimed innocence.
London Underground – due in no small part to union involvement – has a rigorous disciplinary procedure. The sacked workers will have had the opportunity to put their side of the story, no doubt in the presence of a union rep, to managers before any decision was made. Further, like all sacked workers in the UK they will have open to them the opportunity to appeal the decision and also to take the matter to the Employment Tribunal.
The decision by union leaders to call a strike ballot sits very much at odds with their public condemnation of the Tube PPP as “unsafe”. The union has made much of attacking the new arrangements on the Underground; they have publicly slammed the companies behind the infracos and called on the system to be scrapped. They have repeatedly underlined this opposition with the threat of strike action.
Metronet appears to have acted in this instance to safeguard public safety and yet the reaction of the RMT is not to praise the company but to seek to enforce the return of workers who have (so far) been unable to establish their innocence.
If managers within Metronet are certain that a fair and correct decision was made they must not back down in the face of union threats. For its part, the RMT must decide whether it wants a safe and reliable tube system or one on which managers feel they cannot sack those who place the public at risk.In the meantime London’s travellers face yet further disruption on an already unreliable network.