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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

On the Rails

by New Worker correspondent

ANOTHER round of rail strikes is coming up, uniting all three rail unions, for a few days at least. After repeated failed negotiations, next Thursday and Saturday will see over 40,000 RMT members from Network Rail and 14 train operating companies take strike action that will effectively shut down the railway network. A single day of action by RMT will also take place on Thursday on Hull Trains and Arriva Rail London.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch took aim at the then Transport Secretary, saying: “Grant Shapps continues his dereliction of duty by staying in his bunker and shackling the rail industry from making a deal with us. We will continue to negotiate in good faith, but the employers and government need to understand our industrial campaign will continue for as long as it takes.”

At the same time TSSA is also taking strike action on those days at Avanti West Coast, in an escalation of the ongoing dispute over pay, job security and con­ditions. TSSA are demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies (plans to close ticket offices will hit them particularly hard), a pay rise to match cost-of-living increases, and no imposed changes to terms and conditions.

General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “It is extremely frustrating that these companies are refusing to comply with these long-established means of resolving issues between workers and their employer.

“Grant Shapps and those running the operating companies are showing a shocking lack of regard for workers, passengers and taxpayers. We invite them to join us at the negotiation table urgently.”

TSSA is also will hold a nationwide 24-hour strike from midday on Monday 26 until mid­day Tuesday 27 September. This will coincide with the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.

Manuel Cortes said that if further negotiations fail: “I will be standing on our picket line in Liverpool and will be encouraging fellow delegates and Labour MPs to do likewise, so they can rightly show they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those fighting the Tories’ cost-of-living crisis.”

Drivers’ union ASLEF will also be on strike next Thursday at 12 train operating companies in protest that they have not had a pay rise since 2019. They justly note that senior managers are richly rewarded and the shareholders always got their dividends during the pandemic, and that the rolling stock companies (who own the trains and lease them back out) have made £billions.

In March we reported the surprising news that TSSA had voted 85 to 15 per cent in favour of merging with another union. The surprise was that the chosen partner was the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB). There is not much synergy between boiler-making and selling train tickets. An added complicating factor is that one union is headquartered in London, the other in Kansas City.

TSSA, the smallest of the three British rail unions, justified the move as it would better protect the interests of its members than would be the case of a merger with the other rail unions RMT or ASLEF. This reasoning obviously appealed to members, who voted 4,322 to 767 for the merger on a 32 per cent turnout.

Now, however, this plan has hit the buffers and the merger will not be going ahead as a forthcoming TSSA conference designed to cement the deal has been discreetly cancelled.