Protesters demand an end to ticket office closures on the rail (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The battle on the rail, now 14 months old, sees new strikes this weekend. Around 20,000 RMT union members at 14 train operating companies were set to strike for 24 hours on Saturday.

They’re right to fight. Bosses are offering just a 5 pay uplift for last year and 4 percent this year. Together those are likely to be a 10 percent cut once inflation is taken into account. And the pay assault is linked to massive attacks on jobs and conditions including the closure of almost all ticket offices in Britain.

A consultation on the future of ticket offices which has received nearly 400,000 responses, will close on 1 September, and the RMT has called a march in London the day before.

Current plans will see up to 1,000 ticket offices closed, putting 2,300 station staff jobs at risk. And the withdrawal of workers hits disabled people particularly hard.  This weekend’s strike is scheduled to be the first of a series of rail actions. 

Train drivers’ union Aslef has called a one-day strike on Friday 1 September, and an overtime ban across the whole network on Saturday 2 September—when RMT union members are set to strike again.

But the limited and episodic nature of the strikes means ruthless rail bosses, backed by limitless government bailouts, are refusing to budge. Last month the RMT called three one-day strikes. 

Unfortunately this latest programme is a retreat from that level of action. And there are no strikes called directly over the ticket office closures. Under pressure from its members, the train drivers’ union Aslef has also called more strikes. But there is no sign of the escalation that union leaders hinted at.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said, “Train drivers at these companies have not had a pay rise for four years while inflation has rocketed. 

“We haven’t heard a word from the employers. We haven’t had a meeting, a phone call, a text message, or an email—since 26 April. And we haven’t had any contact with the government since 6 January. Last week the Financial Times newspaper said that Aslef “had come under pressure from members to intensify the union’s campaign of industrial action”. rail

It quoted Whelan as saying, “The longer it goes on without any contact from the government or any of the employers to resolve the situation, we may have to go harder and faster to make our voice heard.”  He added that the union could consider a permanent ban on overtime. But that hasn’t happened.

Aslef has so far called 11 one-day strikes during the 15-month dispute. That’s not enough to win—and neither is the RMT’s action.

No to ticket office closures, demonstrate Thursday 31 August, assemble 5pm, Department for Transport, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR. Marches at 5.30pm for a rally at 6pm opposite 10 Downing Street

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