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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


RAIL STRIKE: WAGES BEFORE PROFITS!

by New Worker correspondent

RAILWAY WORKERS brought the entire national network to a standstill on Tuesday in a strike over pay and jobs; and there’s plenty more to come following the breakdown of talks between the RMT transport union and Management. Some 50,000 RMT members at Network Rail and 13 train operating companies walked out on Tuesday. Another 10,000 on London Underground joined them as part of their own ongoing dispute with Transport for London over jobs and pensions.

Andrew Haines, the CEO of Network Rail, moaned from a deserted Waterloo station that “this is a wasteland. It’s like the darkest days of Covid” whilst some London schools bleated that they had to hire minibuses to get pupils to their exams. The views of the teenagers, however, were not recorded.

Support for the first national rail strike since 1989 was solid throughout the country. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “today’s turnout at picket lines has been fantastic and exceeded expectations in our struggle for job security, defending conditions and a decent pay rise.”

The robust union response to Management intransigence that has won the support and understanding of much of the travelling public has shaken the Johnson government, which fears and loathes militant trade unionism.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab says the Government is ready for a lengthy stand-off with unions over pay rises. He says the Government “can’t allow” unions to “win this argument” and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is telling rail management not to settle on the union’s terms.

This was condemned by the RMT leader, who said: “Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.

“Until the government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed. We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.”

In Parliament Sir Keir Starmer slammed the Prime Minister for not “doing his job” over the dispute. “If there’s money coming his way he’s there. If it benefits the country, he’s nowhere to be seen,” the Labour leader said. “So rather than blame everyone else, why doesn’t he do his job, get round the table and get the trains running?”

But Starmer held back from giving the RMT his support, telling his MPs not to join the picket lines this week. Most obeyed – but 25 didn’t. Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott showed her support by being photographed with striking workers in Seven Sisters station in north London, but jokingly added “but don’t tell Keir Starmer”. John McDonnell joined picketers at his local station. So did Angela Rayner, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn, still in Labour but barred from the Parliamentary party, was naturally there. Others included former Labour Party chair Ian Lavery, who was seen on a picket at Morpeth in Northumberland, and Leeds East MP Richard Burgon who said: “We can’t just keep accepting workers’ wages and conditions being driven down so that the profits of the rich are driven up.”