Interview with Bob Crow, General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) of Britain

WFTU Press Room: Which is the core of the policy for the railways that both the previous and the current government have promoted in Britain?

Bob Crow: It is a continuation of the European Union policy to break up of any nationalized monopoly (e.g nationalized companies) and to return it to private monopolies, for the full control of the transport system on the basis of profits. Those services that do not make money will be closed down and they will try to keep more money for themselves at the expense of keeping workers’ terms and conditions down.

WFTU: What are the demands of RMT on this issue?

RMT is not going to accept any redundancies, any worsening of our members pay and conditions. We are not going to accept that the services of public transport will be diluted and closed down, nor that the public will get worse services for higher fares. Our members shouldn’t have to accept worse pay and conditions because of the ambitions of the privateers to make even more money.

RMT is the fastest growing union in Britain. What are the characteristics of the RMT?

Crow: We are trying to have a union that respects its members, where the leadership represents the members’ wishes. We are trying to be as open and democratic as possible. We are trying to build a union where the members feel that they can actually change the directions of the union. But most importantly we are not scared to fight the employers when our members wish to fight. The union is there to make sure that its members pay and conditions are preserved and constantly improved; that they work in a safe workplace and that they will be able to leave for home in “one piece” without being injured or hurt. Our role at the work places is to protect our members from employers’ negligence. Moreover, the union has a social role in order to improve life outside the workplace.

WFTU: The RMT is an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress (TUC). This confederation is closely linked to the Labour Party. Is there a relation of the RMT with the Labour Party today?

Crow: The RMT was expelled by the Labour Party because we believed that its policy was against our members. We are trying to attack the anti-trade union laws, to repeal them. They [The Labour Party] are still continuing on the basis of keeping the industries privatized, which was the policy of the Conservative Party. That was doing nothing for our members in the shipping industry. Actually the industry was disrupted by bringing low-wage immigrant workers from around the world, which affected our members’ pay and conditions.

So there was another group in Scotland, a Socialist Party, whose policy is in favor of what our union wanted. As a result,  we gave the money to their members who were prepared to fight, and that is the reason that the Labour Party expelled us.

WFTU: Why is internationalist solidarity important today according to you?

Crow: Internationalist solidarity is more important than ever before since workers are being squeezed as much as possible for the employers to make maximum profit for themselves. The role of an organized labour movement is for it to be ready to defend the working people against big capital and to try to redistribute that wealth to other people in the society.

What are the relations of the RMT with the TUI [Trade Union International] of Transport and the WFTU?
We are closely cooperating with the TUI of Transport which is an affiliate of the World Federation of Trade Unions. We recognize the tremendous role they play for the workers around the world. Our latest common activity is the participation of one of our Executive Committee Members at the WFTU International Solidarity Conference in Palestine. We are involved with a number of WFTU unions around the world, especially with the Brazilian comrades. We have always been involved to the expression of solidarity especially to our Cuban comrades who are part of the WFTU. We recognize them as great partners, true socialists and fighting trade unions who are prepared to role their sleeves up for the struggle for the rights of the working people.

WFTU: What was your general impression from the participation in the 16th World Trade Union Congress which called for coiling and militant counterattack against the capitalist barbarity and exploitation?

Crow: It was a fantastic Congress. With a clear objective there need to be a global response of the workers against capital. Of course, our job first of all is to do the fight in our own country and to link that struggle with all the struggles of the workers around the world who are fighting for justice.

May 9, 2012