The reality directly from those involved in the strike is often very different to the tale the mainstream media would have you believe.
Saturday, June 25th will see huge swathes of Britain be without any rail services, as 40k RMT members will strike for the third time in a week in disputes over pay and jobs.
Commuters are being told not to travel by train as the entire network is crippled by the largest strike in more than 30 years.
Tens of thousands of rail workers are walking out in what has been described as the “biggest outbreak of industrial action in the UK since 1989”.
No one takes industrial action lightly, however, when negotiations cannot be brought to the table and sensible proposals made, workers have always had the right to withdraw their labour. It is never done with the intention of causing the public distress or hardship but as a last resort to bring about a negotiated settlement.
Why is this happening?
Listening to the Rail workers, you get a different perspective of why the RMT are striking rather than the hyperbole being flung out by what the mainstream media call journalists who simply cypher and transmit lies handed down from official sources in the attempt to give the public an ‘official truth’ that falls far short from the reality.
From an anonymous rail worker:
“Three years ago we accepted a 0% pay rise, two years ago we accepted a 0% pay rise. But this year they came to us with a 0% pay rise plus over 2500 redundancies, changes to terms and conditions. An increase from 28 weeks of nights to 39 weeks of nights. An increase from 32 weekends worked to 39 weekends worked. Currently, for a night shift we get time and a quarter, for a weekend turn we get time and a half. They wish to cut both of these to time and a tenth. So that’s a 15% pay cut on every night shift and a 40% pay cut on every weekend turn. But they want us to work more of them.
This is their modernisation they talk about. Not technology, we embrace technology and have seen more and more of it in recent years. They also wish to fire and re-hire the operative grades and bring them back under a new job title but on £9000 a year less. They also want them to use their own vehicles to get to work sites, this when fuel is at its highest. They will also be pooled when currently they are part of the team. The press are painting this to be about pay above all else. It is not. But now we’ve said sod them we are going to demand better. I wish everyone could see past the government controlled media smear.”
Rail Disputes – Key Facts
As you will be aware strike action is taking place on 21, 23 and 25 June. Far from rushing into strike action, we have been seeking to work with government and employers for almost two years to address the challenges facing our industry, including the jobs, pay and conditions of our rail workers. Moreover, our overwhelming ballot for strike action was almost four weeks ago and we have again been using that time to try and seek a resolution.
However, the rail companies have made it clear to the union and also in private briefings to the media that the government is directly controlling the negotiations and hindering a settlement.
The union sought urgent talks with the government and also called for the government to unshackle the companies to allow settlement. Over the weekend, Jake Berry who is Chair of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, broke ranks from the government line and called for Grant Shapps to intervene. It is a matter of extreme concern that government ministers are continuing to refuse to meet to try and resolve the dispute or allow the companies the freedom to negotiate more freely. Indeed, in response they have directly threatened rail workers with even more job losses.
Astonishingly the government have said they will use taxpayers’ money to bail out private train companies during the strikes and will legislate to ban the right to strike. They are even prepared to risk passenger safety by using untrained staff to run the railway during the action.
Rather than negotiation, they seem to want confrontation.
We remain available for meaningful negotiations to resolve this dispute and we urge the government to unshackle the employers to make realistic proposals as soon as possible. In the meantime, below are some key facts in relation to the dispute.
- Rail workers voted by almost 9-1 in favour of strike action on a 71% turnout. Far from ‘jumping the gun’ the action is a last resort after two years of discussions where the industry and UK Ministers failed to address concerns on jobs, pay and conditions.
- A key aspect of the dispute is the threat of thousands of compulsory redundancies. This will mean increased risks on safety critical infrastructure, less staff on stations and trains, including the removal of guards and catering staff, cuts to cleaning and the closure of nearly all ticket offices. This is not modernisation; it is the managed decline of our railways where cuts will worsen services for passengers and make the railway less safe and accessible. If we are to have a full rail recovery from Covid with expanding services to meet our climate commitments, we need to retain staff and their skills. The passenger watchdog Transport Focus has said ‘there is a strong sense that the ideal response to the pandemic would be to see more staff…rather than less.’
- All rail staff are identified as key workers. They work in a safety critical industry seven-day weeks with very unsocial hours in all types of adverse weather and conditions. Many regularly deal with being assaulted and anti-social behaviour. Those workers balloted include cleaners, catering staff, controller, guards, drivers, engineering, revenue protection, signal workers, station staff, track workers and train maintenance staff. Most rail workers have basic salary rates of between £25 -31,000, around the national median annual salary of £31,285.
- Rail workers were praised as ‘heroes’ by the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, for keeping the country moving during the pandemic. Now despite the cost-of-living crisis most rail workers are enduring two to three year pay freezes whilst MPs have received a rise worth almost worth 6% during this period.
- The government claim they ‘bailed out’ the rail industry during the pandemic, when in fact the railways always needed to be supported to keep people and good moving. Rail workers are angry their livelihoods are under threat when during the pandemic rail bosses have taken home £1m pay packets and rail companies have made in excess of£500 million a year in private profits since the start of the health emergency. The reason cuts are now being proposed is so companies can continue to rake in profits, regardless of the consequences for passengers.
- There is a better way to manage change. For example the Welsh Government have guaranteed no compulsory redundancies and have protected staffing levels and support the role of ticket offices. In contrast we are concerned the UK government and companies are preparing for confrontation. Ministers have even said they will use taxpayers’ money to fund any losses incurred by the private train operators.
- RMT’s recent ballot exceeded stringent anti-trade union thresholds, beat the percentage turnout at the general election and exceeded the majorities achieved by most politicians. Yet in response the government is threatening to change the law to remove workers’ democratic right to take strike action. The P&O scandal has recently shown exactly how ruthless companies can be and how the law is stacked in their favour against working people. Now the government is threatening to make it worse.
- After all they have been through as key workers during Covid, putting their health and lives on the line, rail workers don’t want to take strike action. This dispute could still be resolved quickly and RMT is calling for talks with the government and the industry at a national level to reach a fair settlement. Please lobby the government to demand that the rail companies must agree that there must be no compulsory redundancies of rail workers, that working conditions and jobs are subject to negotiation and agreement with the rail workers union the RMT and that rail workers receive a fair pay rise that takes into account the rising cost of living.
We hope you will continue to support the workers and their legitimate concerns that must be resolved before normal services continue.
The biggest question is how the oligarchy ever imagined they could continue with the biggest transference of wealth from the public to the private sector in history, this blatant theft of our money before we started to fight back?
Our current form of capitalism has no concept of right & wrong. It only recognises what is profitable and what you can get away with. And when you have the government, the media, the military and the police on your payroll, you get away with pretty much anything. The one thing that can make a difference is when we start to withdraw our labour…