On the rail workers picket line at Euston station in London (Picture: RMT Union on Twitter)

The latest rail strike on Saturday took place with strong signals that there will be major action by rail workers, doctors and possibly other workers during the Conservative Party conference at the start of October.

Terry, a London RMT member, told Socialist Worker, “We’re still up for the fight, and we’ll still be here when the summer is over and the government is in even more trouble.” He said union officials had hinted that “all the rail unions will be out on strike alongside the doctors during the Tory conference”.

Terry said, “It would be a great symbol for the trains to stop and the hospitals to be on emergency only, and everyone else out as well. That ought to be organised,” he said.

Both NHS consultants and junior doctors are set to strike on 2, 3, and 4 October during the conference in Manchester with a rally on 3 October. It would be very positive for all rail workers to be out for all of these days.

But it has to be part of a wider strategy of swift escalation now.

The strike by 20,000 RMT union members on Saturday came the day after Aslef union members struck, halting virtually all train service.

Speaking at a picket line at Euston in London, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said, “These are strikes voted for by 92 percent to 99 percent of our members, for the fourth or fifth time. 

“Some of our members, when we get to the end of this year, will be five years without a pay rise, so there’s no sign of any weakening or any lack of resolve, and our members in many cases want to go harder and faster.”

Whelan often indicates that Aslef members want the action stepped up. But he doesn’t implement it.

And therefore the bosses try to ride out the dispute. Robert Nisbet, spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators, said the unions must show “movement” on changes to working practices.

Asked why no talks have been held between the RDG and Aslef since April, Nisbet said, “Because they will not accept that core principle. The main problem here at the moment with Aslef is that they won’t accept a link to changing the way that the industry runs.”

Nisbet means mass ticket office closures, a quarter of ticket office jobs eliminated, and major job cuts and attacks on conditions for catering workers, engineering workers and train crew.

The RMT wrote last week to the train companies’ RDG employers’ body laying out a possible way to end the dispute. Bosses treated the initiative with contempt. The union said, “Rail bosses refused to even acknowledge receipt of the letter and briefed the media that they had rejected it instead.” 

The RDG did eventually reply and has offered talks next week. But they are unlikely to produce anything except another rotten offer.

The possible plan for united strikes during the Tory conference is well short of the big days of united strikes in February and March this year. But it would be a real boost and could involve other workers.

The TUC union federation conference from 10-13 September is a chance to spread the diea, and it’s early enough for all unions with a live strike ballot to give two weeks’ notice to join the action.

Workers need to pressure their union leaders for more strikes.


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