RMT AGM: Questioning the General Secretary's Report

Refusal to work on the grounds of safety - rights for pregnant women and new mothers

At RMT's AGM, the General Secretary presents a written report, and delegates can question and comment on it. These are the two points that I raised:


There are two issues that are not in the Report, which I think should have been.


Firstly, refusal to work on the grounds of safety.

Last year, we debated a resolution on refusal to work on the grounds of safety concerns. It was passed unanimously, and it attracted a lot of contributions, reflecting how strongly members and reps feel about this issue. It also included several specific instructions on what the union should do about the issue. The intention was to arm our members with the knowledge they need to stand up for their right to a safe workplace.

Unfortunately, I see nothing in the report about this, and no evidence that the union has actually carried out the resolution.

There was supposed to be training, reports in RMT News, and perhaps most importantly, a 'know your rights' guide for members.

It was reported to our Regional Council that a 'know your rights' guide had been produced (although I haven't seen it in circulation), but that it is so long and legalistic that most workers probably wouldn't read it, if they did read it wouldn't understand it - and if they did, it would probably put them off refusing to work on safety grounds rather than give them confidence to.

This is not good enough. It was not the point of the resolution - which was to arm workers, so that when faced with unsafe systems of work; machinery that could break and kill them; vehicles not fit to be driven; worksites not fit for human habitation - they know they can refuse.

This is a life and death issue.


The second issue is similar.

Several years ago now, women reps brought forward a proposal for a 'know your rights' guide for pregnant workers and new mothers. The union agreed to do it - but it has not been produced.

Employers routinely deny pregnant women and new mothers out legal rights to, for example, risk assessments, rest facilities and time off.

These rights change sometimes, but there is no excuse for not producing a guide - a woman could have had two or three kids in the time we've been waiting!


I'd like to ask:

  • Why are these issues not covered in the Report?
  • Why has the union not carried out these resolutions?
  • Will the General Secretary give a cast-iron guarantee that these things will be carried out by, say, two months from now?


    Bob Crow's reply:

    • The Report is a snapshot of RMT's guide, so is not comprehensive.
    • The 'know your rights' guide on refusal to work on safety grounds needs to cover lots of industries and grades; it is complicated; we have to get it right.
    • We have now got the legal advice, and the guide is at the printers.
    • For the guide for pregnant women and new mothers, we have to get information from more than 300 companies.
    • It is nearly completed.

    Update: RMT has now produced a reps' guide to the legal rights of pregnant women and new mothers.