National Executive Committee sets out measures to be taken during Coronavirus crisis

17th March 2020 

Dear Colleague,

Covid 19 - RMT Update 
With reference to the above, a Special Meeting of the NEC was convened today and the following decisions have been made which I will ask that you read carefully. I can also advise that the attached list of key concerns have been relayed to the government following a telephone conference with government officials and I will also keep you advised of developments in this area. 

Since onset of the Coronavirus Crisis we have witnessed a different strategy employed by the UK government from governments elsewhere. That has meant that employers, unions and other organisations have had to second guess what to do whilst giving advice and assistance to employees and members alike. 

We have raised concerns about the lack of direction and have previously written to employers around our industrial and safety concerns. However, as a result of the fragmented structures of the industries we operate in there has been a lack of consistent response to our concerns. 

In addition, we as union employ staff and support our members in a background of doubtful direction of the Crisis by the UK government in particular. 

This document sets out the measures that this Union needs to take for the duration of the current health crisis. 

Engagement with authorities 
Belatedly, we have seen the DfT start dialogue with the unions. We welcome this dialogue and continue to participate to ensure we protect the interest of our members. 
We will participate in forums to represent our members across Rail, Shipping, Offshore, Bus, Taxi and Road Transport this includes working with both the Welsh and Scottish Governments.

We shall ensure that we provide updates to members and representatives on such discussions. Further, we note that we have agreed with our sister rail unions to maintain regular contact. 
Our demands to the government, authorities and employers.

The union has been engaged with the Department for Transport, employers and authorities on all aspects of health & safety including testing, job security and earnings protection in order to secure the interests of our members and our industrial sectors be they directly employed, sub contracted, zero hours or in the supply chain. 
We have made demands for the DfT to directly intervene in all of our transport sectors to protect services and our members working in them and have demanded direct sector-based discussions at national level for each of our membership groups. 

While we are prepared to work with government, authorities and employers on providing essential transport, maritime and offshore energy services for the benefit of our communities and society, this NEC is of the view that our members engaged in the provision of those services should be regarded as essential workers and should therefore be provided with the full status and protection of that of essential service workers. 

The General Secretary is therefore instructed to place a draft RMT Position Statement on the current emergency, including the points already made to the Department for Transport, before this NEC that covers the issues pertaining to transport and our members, and additionally our position on the broader issues affecting working class and society during this crisis. 
The General Secretary is to take steps to ensure that regular communication to members is maintained on all aspects of the union’s activities and any important developments. 

Maintaining job security and RMT membership 
In light of the major downturn in the aviation sector and the likely drastic reductions in passenger and freight numbers and revenues in all transport sectors the General Secretary is instructed to ensure that all Representatives and Officers remain vigilant and engaged with the employers and that any initiatives to attack job security or pay, terms and conditions of our members is reported immediately. 

Where employers take steps such as lay-offs, hours and pay reductions the General Secretary is empowered to use discretion in consideration of membership contributions under Rule 2, Clauses 7 & 8 to retain members in the union during this period. 

Representation of members and engagement with employers 
In regards to representing our members at the work place the General Secretary is instructed to seek confirmation from employers that they will continue to provide release to our representatives to continue dialogue and providing representation but again utilise technology such as video and telephone conferencing to ensure we can still represent our members interests in this difficult time. We should seek to minimise face to face contact until it is safe to do so but utilise other means to ensure members get represented. 

Full-time officials 
Our Full-time officers will continue to work on behalf of the union and its members. In doing so they will need to minimise travel and face-to face contact, use technology as far as practicable, and will observe all necessary health precautions. 

The General Secretary is to liaise directly with our Full Time Officials on how best to maintain the union’s services to members taking in to account the practicalities of the situation and the needs of our Officer’s and their own concerns. 

The on-going work of our union 
We have to consider what the union needs to do to continue to operate whilst looking after our employees. In this regard we note the actions taken by the General Secretary to introduce working from home for our staff where possible, closing to non-employee visitors all our offices and minimising face to face meetings for the foreseeable future. 

Further we understand that the General Secretary may be required to close our offices at some stage. The union shall continue to provide key services such as the helpline via the staff at head office and in regions working from home supported by the appropriate protocols and exercising our duty of care. 

We shall continue to communicate with members, branches and regions. However, this will mean utilising emails and texts rather than the traditional hard copy communications. The General Secretary is putting mechanisms in place for the union to monitor our incoming mail to reduce the risk that members’ paperwork which have deadlines such as legal cases are met. 

RMT Meetings and Conferences 
Currently we are seeing the TUC reviewing and cancelling meetings and conferences. Other trade unions are following suit. In addition, we are aware that we have a large number of conferences that have been arranged between now and June. 

In view of the current climate and uncertainty about how long this crisis will last, we instruct the General Secretary to postpone all conferences up to and including the Branch Secretary’s conference in June. In addition, we cancel the Cuba Garden Party planned for June. 

Union Training & Education 
Further, we instruct the General Secretary to cancel planned National and Regional RMT training for the foreseeable future. In addition, he is to look at the possibility of the union providing on line training. 

Governance of the Union 
Taken together with the uncertainty of the progress of this pandemic and the postponement of at least 14 important industrial organising and equality conferences we also instruct the General Secretary to postpone the 2020 AGM planned to be held in Southend this June. 

Union Conferences 
Therefore, we instruct the General Secretary to bring forward plans to reconvene the industrial organising and equality conferences with the aim that these should take place during the autumn to deal with the essential business before the AGM recognising, however, that this timetable needs to be kept under review. The date and venue of the reconvened AGM to be placed before this NEC. 

AGM 2020 
We note that elections for the 2020 AGM delegates have been completed and that the election for the AGM standing orders committee is taking place. 
Whilst the AGM has been delayed we note that the AGM year commences each year in June at the start of the AGM as per the union’s rule book. Therefore in regard to the timetable for preparation of the AGM agenda we instruct as follows: 

  • Whenever the AGM takes place in 2020, it will remain a “June to June” AGM dealing with business germane to the period since the close of the 2019 AGM to Sunday 21st June 2020 when this year’s AGM would have commenced.
  • If practicable we will issue the Preliminary Agenda issued not later than April 1st​
  • A revised timetable and arrangements for amendments to motions on the Preliminary Agenda and submission from items arising from our union’s conferences will be advised in due course.  
  • Appeals against NEC decisions reached between March 16th and 21st June to be received before 17.00 hrs Sunday 21st June 2020 

As the AGM will not be able to approve the union’s accounts and financial statements according to the usual timescales the General Secretary is instructed to engage with our auditors and the Certification Officer in order to deal with this matter appropriately and advise this NEC. 

Branches & Regional Councils 
In addition to the situation regarding the union’s events such as conferences we also believe it important to look at how branches and regional councils shall operate. 
We recommend that branch or regional council meetings should not be held until we issue advice to contrary. 
Necessary branch and regional council business is to be conducted by branch committees and regional council executive committees utilising technology such as telephone conferencing to get business done. 
We note that there will be elections that will need to be started during this period and the General Secretary is instructed to provide a further report to this NEC in order that we can give consideration how best to ensure branch participation. 

National Executive Committee 
Finally, we have looked at how this NEC can continue to oversee the work of the union. The administration staff will not be directly available and the NEC will not travel to London and boardroom sessions will not be possible. 

Therefore, we suspend the Standing Orders of the NEC and will make the best practicable arrangements so that the NEC can continue to function and liaise with and instruct the General Secretary as appropriate. The NEC will continue to have at least two scheduled meeting per week on Tuesday and Thursday to conduct the on-going business of the Union. 

The General Secretary has provided mechanisms such as video and telephone conferencing which we shall utilise to conduct NEC business. 
We shall keep all the matters under review as this situation develops.” 

I shall keep members advised of developments but in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries or concerns. 

Yours sincerely,
Mick Cash General Secretary