Solidarity at Waterloo station in London with the rail strike (Picture: Guy Smallman)
A new walkout on Wednesday has kicked off a round of strikes over pay by rail and telecoms workers this week.
Some 40,000 RMT union members on Network Rail and 14 train companies struck on Wednesday. TSSA union members working for Avanti West Coast also struck at the same time.
It was the first day of action since the three days of strikes last month that marked the beginning of a growing wave of class struggle. Since then, Network Rail bosses have offered a paltry pay offer and refused to drop their planned job cuts. And train operating companies haven’t budged on pay at all.
One striker at Liverpool Street station in east London, Jamie, told Socialist Worker it was “great to be back out, and I want more of it.”
And RMT East London branch chair Wale Agunbiade said the previous strikes had boosted workers’ confidence. “Everyone feels very confident being in a union now. And the number of members we have has gone up,” he told Socialist Worker. “The region I’m in has got at least 800 more members. It means people are galvanised and strengthening themselves.”
Workers slammed Network Rail bosses’ last offer—made on 13 July—of a 4 percent increase backdated to January and 2 percent next year, a real terms pay cut when inflation soars to near 12 percent.
Workers would be made to achieve “modernisation milestones”—forcing more out of workers—to get the 2 percent. And workers for train operating companies were furious that their bosses hadn’t budged at all.
One South West rail striker at Waterloo station in south London told Socialist Worker, “The business has money but it’s going to shareholders. It doesn’t go to workers, but they want us to take on more responsibilities and more work. They’re going to close ticket offices. Some of our members will lose their jobs.
Solid strike in Wolverhampton (Picture: Martin Lynch)
And a striking TSSA member at Euston station in central London said, “We’re just pissed off that they’re not even going to negotiate with us. I know Network Rail has given an offer but all the train operating companies have said tough, there’s nothing for you.”
He added that Network Rail’s planned cuts meant the strike was about safety too. “They want to reduce the maintenance staff,” he told Socialist Worker. “A lot of our members that work on the railway travel in by railway. We know that by cutting maintenance staff they’re going to lose safety. We’re now at greater risk travelling in on the same public transport that we serve.”
The rail strike comes as workers in BT—members of the CWU union—prepared to launch their own national strike over pay
on Friday of this week. And members of the Aslef train drivers’ union at eight rail companies are set to strike on Saturday.
One striker, George, at King’s Cross station in central London said it felt as if the rail strikes had “broken the dam.” He told Socialist Worker, “The average working person is starting to realise that what we are doing now is something they could do in their workplace if they were organised. It’s not that we’re paid too much—it’s about people not earning enough.”
The striker at Euston said, “People are struggling across the board no matter what industry they’re working in. The only people doing alright at the moment are the bankers and the financial sector.
“We’re meant to be at full employment but wages are not going up. You’ve got shops like supermarkets that haven’t got enough staff but they’re not putting the wages up to attract people into those jobs. Isn’t that meant to be the way it works, that when you have a lack of supply you up the wages to bring that supply back?”
Jamie, at Liverpool Street, said that passing support on the picket line “makes you feel like you’re out fighting for everyone, and it means people know we’re not greedy or selfish. He added, “We can’t just be out one day at a time, and we need to keep the breaks between action short. It’ll give us more power going forward.
And, he added, “A lot of workers are realising they’ve been mistreated. We need to come together to continue demanding what we deserve as a collective. That’s how we’ll win.”
Thanks to Sadie Robinson
For pictures and videos from across Britain of the strike go here on Instagram and here on Twitter