By Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
Over 45,000 rail workers in the UK, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), went on another round of national strikes this week on Thursday 18 August and on Saturday 20 August.
Workers at London Underground and Overground went on strike on Friday 19 August.
They are waging a determined fight against sweeping attacks on their pay, jobs and working conditions.
(Please also see the earlier report of their strike at https://aifap.org.in/6341/: “Train drivers in England and Scotland struck work on 13th August 2022 for pay rise to offset soaring food and fuel prices”)
Rail workers have been offered pay rise of 8 percent over two years which means really just four percent for one year and the other four percent the next, when the annual inflation is already more than 10 percent and continues to rise. The pay rise offered comes with the condition that workers accept 2,000 job losses well as major changes in terms and conditions. “That would mean more night shifts—40 weeks of nights a year. That would impact people’s lives massively”, explained a rail worker.
A rail worker of London explained what they are fighting for. “The rents are going up, the bills are going up. The companies are making all these big profits and we just can’t take it anymore.
“We all worked through the pandemic, every single one of us on the frontline. As did the binmen, street cleaners, NHS staff.
“They are blaming us for the disruption to the economy when for years some of us have not had a pay rise, so how you can blame the working person for what’s going on in the financial world?
“If you don’t fight, you’ll never win.
“If we all go out together, then everyone will understand what is happening to us. What’s going on is affecting every working person in this country, and other countries as well.
“To add insult to injury, striking tube workers are labelled ‘Putin’s stooges’ and ‘the enemy underground’.
Another rail worker in London said the strike was partly “about getting a decent pay rise—we’ve not had one in years. But they also want to ‘modernise’; we know that when they say ‘modernise’ it basically means that they want to cut our jobs.”
Many workers in England now are feeling the need for a united action. Opposing separate strikes by different transport workers’ – bus, underground rail, etc., a worker expressed: “It would be more effective if we all came together in a general strike. I believe it will come to that.”
“I would support a general strike, absolutely. It’s not just us that’s affected. It’s the system that’s really, really broken”, said another worker.
Another driver said, “I think everyone should stick together: teachers, the NHS (National Health Service) are all coming out.”
A striking signal worker said, “I’ve been waiting for a national strike for 12 years. I’ve been going down to London on all those marches against austerity… This is the closest you’ll ever come to it [a national strike]. It’s within sight—we’ve got to do that extra bit.”
A delegation of French rail workers union joined the UK rail workers in solidarity and said “We’re all in the same struggle. We try to give international solidarity and heighten awareness.
“Among French rail workers, news of the strikes here has been met with great enthusiasm. It raises hope for coordinated strikes in Britain, which will bolster the confidence of workers across the Channel.
“There are anti-union laws in France, but nowhere are they as severe as here. A few weeks ago in France, we organised strikes which didn’t respect the legal hurdles. The union leaders are one thing, workers are another, but the task of workers is to impose the strategy.
“In order not to chase the next inflation rate rise, we need to overthrow the system, we need an organisation that goes beyond bargaining and it has to be international.”