Sunday, April 04, 2010

Unions demand BBC apology

EIGHT trade unions have closed ranks behind the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT) to demand that the BBC apologise for remarks made by broadcaster John Humphrys about the rail unions' strike ballot.

Network Rail won a High Court action on Thursday to stop a four-day walkout by signallers going ahead this week, after successfully arguing the RMT's strike ballot had been flawed. The company warned that "unlawful" strike action would cause "immense damage to the economy".

The decision was welcomed by the government. But RMT General Secretary Bob Crow warned that the dispute was by no means over. "They have won round one, but this is a 15-round heavyweight contest," he said.

The RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association were both planning strikes in disputes over changes to signallers' terms and conditions and 1,500 maintenance job cuts. The unions say this is not just about jobs but about safety on the railways. Now both RMT and TSSA plan to reballot members.


Eight National Unions, who are represented by the Trade Union Coordinating Group, today demanded that the BBC make a full retraction and apology to Bob Crow and the RMT for the completely unsubstantiated allegation used by John Humphrys in his interview with Bob Crow on this morning's Today programme.

John McDonnell MP, Parliamentary Convenor of the TUCG, said:

"How can a ballot conducted by the Electoral Reform Society be rigged? This was one of the most disgraceful biased performances of an interviewer and of the BBC itself in the history of the BBC and its treatment of trade unions."

"The Court case in which the RMT dispute was discussed did not infer ballot rigging but errors in the ballot making process. Under law, union ballots have to be conducted by an independent scrutineer. This ballot was sent out, counted and completely run by the Electoral Reform Society. The idea that ballot papers were sent out to derelict Signal Boxes is a complete myth; not a single ballot paper was sent out to any Signal Box or workplace. They were sent out by the ERS to RMT members’ homes.”

“For an allegation of ballot rigging to be made on the Today Programme is an appalling slur on both the union and Bob Crow himself and brings discredit on the whole of the BBC. We are demanding that a retraction is made by the BBC and an apology given and that Mr Crow is given an opportunity to explain the RMT’s case without this biased interference."

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the civil service union PCS , said; “The real story here is not the actions of the RMT, which are clearly beyond reproach, but why we have laws in this country that make it virtually impossible for people to defend themselves.”

“Rather than slurring the RMT the BBC should be examining why bosses and judges have the power to prevent unions taking legitimate industrial action to defend their members. A full repeal of the anti-union laws introduced by Margaret Thatcher is long overdue. The right to strike is essential to any democratic society. If we forget that we are moving into very dangerous territory.”

The Trade Union Ccordinating Group brings together eight National Unions (BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, PCS, POA, RMT and URTU) representing over half a million members to coordinate their campaigning work both in Parliament and beyond.

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