The Labour Party forgets its place
It wasn’t so long ago when you were guaranteed the support of Labour MPs at the picket line where they would not only bring about media attention to the cause but carry the fight into Westminster, pressurising the opposition to bring about a negotiated settlement.
Tony Benn and other LeFT Labour MPs would always explain and articulate the workers’ just cause, why they were striking, their demands and why they had a right to strike.
After all, as it says on the Labour party website: “The Labour Party was formed out of the trade union movement to give working people their own political voice. The link from the workplace to the party through the affiliated trade unions is what makes it unique to this day. This link is more important than ever as we work together to tackle the urgent problems we face as a country, from stagnating wages to failing public services.”
Even though the RMT union is not an affiliated union it is a union of the working class and throughout its history has supported the Labour Party both at the ballot and in donations.
In the 2020 Labour leadership bid, Sir Keir Starmer called himself a “proud trade unionist” who had worked with unions “all my life”, including as a legal observer on the picket line in Wapping when Rupert Murdoch took on the print unions.
Indeed, in his Labour leadership bid, Starmer promised to “work shoulder to shoulder with trade unions to stand up for working people”.
However, it seems just like all of Starmer’s other leadership promises and manifesto pledges, that proud unionist he claimed to be has gone out of the window too. Sir Keir Starmer is not only not supporting the rail strike but has banned Labour frontbenchers from the picket lines. This is a blatant betrayal of the working class and all the Labour Party stand for, for many it’s just another confirmation that under Starmer the labour party is not the alternative to the Tory party but the alternative Tory Party.
It’s hurtful to see the Labour Party fall short in its duty to all workers, but not unexpected after its shift to the right.
The question must be what’s the point of the Labour party if not to stand up for the worker? The clues in the name!
Meanwhile, the RMT supports the campaign for a square deal for all working people in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, and our current campaign is a part of that more general campaign which means that public services have to be properly funded and all workers properly paid with good conditions.
Since the strike was announced, there has been a huge media effort to delegitimize the action, however, there has been a massive positive show of public support for the union.
The RMT union have not called this strike for the fun of picketing, as do millions of other workers who have legitimate grievances and desperate concerns that need addressing, only through negotiations can a settlement be created.
The strike is an expression of the democratic will of RMT’s members: 89 per cent of whom voted in favour of the action. This is a resounding mandate, which exceeds even the deliberately high threshold the Tories brought in with the 2016 Trade Union Act, in an obvious attempt to thwart the labour movement.
It is clear that the Tory Government after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.
The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.
At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against Compulsory Redundancies.
As a result of this transport austerity, the employing companies have taken decisions to:
- Attack the Railway Pension Scheme and the TFL scheme, diluting benefits, making staff work longer and making them poorer in retirement, while paying increased contributions.
- Cut thousands of jobs across the rail network while not giving a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.
- Cutting safety inspections on the infrastructure by 50% in order to facilitate mass redundancies.
- Attack terms, conditions and working practices in a form of internal fire and re-hire, including lowering existing salaries and increasing the working week.
- Re-starting the disputes on the role and responsibility of the guard and massive cuts to catering services.
- Closing every ticket office in Britain regardless of the accessibility needs of the diversity of passengers
- Cutting real pay for most of our members through lengthy pay freezes and well below RPI inflation pay proposals.
Faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts to jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, RMT has no choice but to defend its members industrially to stop this race to the bottom.