Billy's bet

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Issue: 
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Billy Hayes, in his article on old fashioned values (Union-made, Socialist Review, September 2007), made a bet - that "some of the best organised workplaces where members are the strongest, would be the place where the modern 'Owens' are making their case for a better future..."

The RMT Metronet dispute involved a group of workers many of us knew nothing about before. When they were on strike last month we visited their picket line.

A worker in his twenties talked to us there and told us this was the first organised shop he had worked in. "It was weird, at first, to be called 'brother' - but not any more. It all makes sense now - we are brothers."

He went on to tell us that the steward hadn't just organised the engineers - he'd also argued for and recruited cleaning staff, security and other grades. And they knew that they had real power - that management couldn't run the trains without them.

As we listened to train movements (we couldn't see them), they worked out which ones were being put in the shed, which ones taking staff back to the depot.

The result is a group of workers who fight together, look out for each other and have learnt some basic truths about privatisation. Maybe some old values are coming back into fashion.

I think Billy has just won his bet.

Mike Barton
London