Trade Unions

RMT ‘alignment’

John Stewart

Hackney North CLP

The Rail Maritime & Transport Union (RMT) decided against re-affiliation to the Labour Party at its Special General Meeting on 30th May. Instead the union voted for its NEC recommendation to ‘align’ itself with Labour without taking the full step of affiliation.

General Secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Our consultation has shown that the views of our branches and regions are finely balanced and the SGM has decided that whilst we do not support affiliation at this current time there is the potential for the union to affiliate to the Labour Party at a future date if there is clearer support for this …. there is a clear desire amongst RMT members to support Jeremy Corbyn and the left leadership of the Labour Party and that is why we are now putting in place concrete steps to throw the weight of the RMT behind supporting the socialist advances that have been made in the Labour Party.”

The RMT’s new ‘alignment’ stance will include encouraging its 83,000 members to join the Labour Party as individuals, encouraging its branches and regional councils to donate to Labour at elections and encouraging RMT branches to work with local Labour parties on joint campaigns. The union wants to support Corbyn’s policies on transport and trade union rights, especially plans to take rail back into public ownership and the ‘Keep the Guard on the Train’ campaign.

The union decided against affiliation as it is concerned at the constant attempts by some in the Parliamentary Labour Party to undermine Corbyn’s leadership and believes that many Labour MPs want to reverse the progressive changes he is making to the party.

The RMT’s predecessor, the National Union of Railwaymen, was one of the founder unions of the Labour Party and was an important affiliate up until 2004 when it was expelled after some of its branches began funding the Scottish Socialist Party. Today the RMT is one of the most militant and industrially important unions in Britain. It is also one of the few trade unions to have experienced membership growth over the past twenty years. Its decision not to seek re-affiliation is a lost opportunity to participate in supporting the struggle to transform the Labour Party and win policies that would benefit RMT members and working class people in general. The RMT’s affiliation could have played an important part in that struggle and would have boosted the left of the party in the ongoing struggle with the right.