The Petrit Mihaj affair: Setting the record straight

A statement by Socialist Party members in the RMT

Steve Hedley, who is retiring as RMT AGS, has launched an attack on Socialist Party members who sit on the RMT NEC. The Socialist Party will continue to recognise the important work that Steve Hedley has done as a member, rep and officer of RMT. Given the huge industrial struggles facing our members and the union, we would prefer not having to deal with this at this time but we have no choice but to answer the accusations made.

The Socialist Party has always worked together with Steve Hedley in the RMT, and Jared Wood, a Socialist Party member and NEC member for the London Transport region has done more than anyone on the NEC to oppose actions taken by the union against Steve in the past. In particular, Jared was one of only two NEC members who opposed Steve’s suspension for making comments about Boris Johnson in March 2020.

Steve’s accusation against the Socialist Party relates to the matter of Petrit Mihaj’s dismissal from employment with RMT. Again, Jared has opposed every NEC decision to take action against Petrit and his supporters in the union. Indeed, it was Jared who moved a resolution to prevent the initial redundancy of Petrit, which unfortunately was lost by a single vote on the NEC. Jared was on leave when the NEC expelled Petrit and four of his supporters last week but in line with how he has argued and voted on this issue, he would have opposed such a move. He supports their reinstatement.

Socialists within the RMT need to oppose attempts to centralise power within the union, and instead promote a militant industrial policy to fight austerity in the rail, maritime and transport sectors. It is therefore particularly disappointing that Steve is targeting such socialists in the union at this time. Unfortunately, the position of those who want to attack the militancy and democratic demands of the London Transport Region have been immeasurably strengthened by the “picket” that Petrit and some supporters have put on outside RMT HQ.

In fact, the idea of “picketing” Unity House has been counter-productive. A campaign to overturn the redundancy could have been mounted and would almost certainly have been successful through an appeal to the RMT Annual General Meeting. Indeed, last autumn’s AGM saw the union’s leadership defeated on this issue.

Despite the unfounded attacks on us by Steve, we have continually argued that this issue cannot be resolved without the NEC and leadership acknowledging that Petrit should not have been made redundant in the first place. In our RedLine bulletin to the union’s Special AGM in February, we said: “This week’s 2nd SGM will consider a statement from the NEC about the issue of ongoing picketing of Unity House. This issue should never have been allowed to escalate to this point. It originates in a decision to make a member of staff compulsorily redundant when the Union Learning Fund was withdrawn by government. At the time of the funding cut, the London Transport Regional Council submitted a resolution to the NEC, which called for no compulsory redundancies to be used in closing RMT’s ULR scheme. This resolution was not placed before the NEC and Petrit Mihaj was made compulsory redundant. Everything else that has happened follows from that. The decision to reinstate Petrit after the redundancy but to then sack him for his actions in fighting it further inflamed the situation and ignored the clear wishes of the 2021 AGM.”

We have argued that the way in which Petrit and his supporters have “picketed” was counter-productive. The issue isn’t whether a dispute is official or unofficial but rather it needs to be about giving members, or in this instance staff, a chance to discuss the case and make a collective decision about what to do. This may have won support. Instead, unilaterally declaring a picket line and accusing anyone who went into the office of being scabs was a huge mistake. The reality is that the “picket” does not have the support of the staff working in that workplace and their unions.

February’s Special General Meeting (SGM) of the union took a decision that RMT staff, officers and NEC had not scabbed and instructed all members, staff and officers to abide by this decision. Delegates who are Socialist Party members did not support this decision because we felt it was one-sided and failed to address the mistake made in making Petrit redundant at the start of this whole sorry affair. Nevertheless, the decision was made and not one delegate in the SGM called on staff or NEC members not to work at Unity House.

Without the NEC being able to meet, our union could not have agreed to ballot members, first on London Underground, later on Network Rail and the Train Operating companies for strike action. We could not have called the magnificent strike action on 1st and 3rd March that shut down the tube.

Actually, Jared Wood was not only one of the main campaigners on the NEC for Petrit’s reinstatement, he was the last to go into the office — precisely in order to ensure that the administrative steps were taken so that the successful strike by over 10,000 London tubeworkers went ahead.

We in the RMT are facing an unprecedented attack on our jobs, pay, pensions and conditions of work. Thousands of jobs are threatened. RMT members need a union with a militant industrial strategy, allied to fighting for a political alternative to Starmer’s New Labour. Socialist Party members in the RMT are fighting to restate the legacy of Bob Crow. A central part of this is to defend our democratic lay member-led structures and oppose any dilution of this. We have a proud record on this and will remain in the vanguard against any such moves. We hope this statement sets the record straight against any unfounded charges against us.

Socialist Party members will redouble our efforts to struggle against the bosses of TfL/LUL, Network Rail, the train operating companies (TOCs), P&O and others. We will argue for a fighting militant response from RMT.