Striking Amazon workers joined rail strike pickets in Coventry (Picture: Sean Leahy)

Tens of thousands of rail workers employed by 14 train operating companies walked out on Thursday in their fight to defend jobs and conditions and for a pay rise. It was the first of four planned 24-hour rail strikes by RMT union members. 

Services were hit hard, but bosses were able to run more services than usual because the union suspended Network Rail strikes while workers consider a rotten offer. That has inevitably weakened the action.

Strikers’ anger was fueled by news that bosses at seven rail companies have awarded themselves pay rises of up to 275 percent (see below).

“My pay has been frozen for about five years,” a ticket office worker in the West Midlands told Socialist Worker. “The rail companies are making huge amounts of profit but it’s apparently OK for us not to get an above-inflation pay rise.”

He added, “The jobs they want to take out of the rail industry are safety important jobs. Closing ticket offices will mean older and disabled people won’t get the extra help they need. To take that away is dangerous.

“This is a political decision. We won’t just give up our services or working conditions that we fought hard to win.”

If the bosses get their way, they will close nearly 1,000 ticket offices in England or they will be repurposed under the guise of “modernising” the railway. But the RMT says that since the pandemic, private train operators stand to make profits of £412 million by September this year, all funded by the state. 

The ticket office worker adds, “We’re galvanised because we know that we aren’t alone—teachers, doctors, loads of others are on strike too. And throughout this campaign, I have not received one bad comment from the public.

“Unfortunately some rail unions have fallen on their own sword. The local TSSA branch killed itself as members joined the RMT because the TSSA accepted a deal that agreed ticket offices would close. We are staying resolute and sticking together, but we need rail unions to stop accepting poor deals.”

Further rail strike action is planned for Saturday, and then 30 March and 1 April.

Top executives have given themselves huge increases (Source RMT union)

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