STRIKE action during COP26 (The United Nations Climate Change Conference), from Sunday October 31 to Friday 12 November, is to go ahead after the RMT transport union rejected the latest ‘pitiful’ pay offer from ScotRail.
Delegates to the RMT’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Leeds have voted to reject a ‘revised pay offer’ from ScotRail and to go ahead with strike action alongside Caledonian Sleeper members throughout COP26 in a fight for pay justice for Scotland’s rail workers.
RMT delegates from ScotRail slammed the proposed ‘new deal’ – which has been driven by Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and Transport Scotland – as poor, loaded with productivity strings and wholly unacceptable to the members who voted overwhelmingly for strike action to secure a fair pay deal.
General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘RMT is a democratic organisation and, following a string of impassioned speeches by ScotRail delegates, our AGM has voted to reject this offer, to support our Scottish members and to press ahead with the action throughout COP26.
‘We have been given a wholly arbitrary deadline of 5.00pm on Wednesday to accept this deal or the whole pay offer will be pulled. You cannot conduct serious negotiations with that sort of gun pointed at your head.’
The RMT is rejecting the ‘gun to the head’ Scottish nationalist government tactic.
Now the Trades Union Congress (TUC) must adopt the same response to the Tory government’s budget attacks on workers due to be made public today.
Tory Chancellor Sunak is set to bring in a budget that will impose a 1.25 percentage point increase in National Insurance contributions that will hit working people hard, following the huge rises in the cost of living.
In response to this ‘Poor Tax’, there is not any trace of a ‘Wealth Tax’ to raise billions in revenue. This is despite the fact that, as the cost-of-living crisis deepens and hits the UK’s poorest households, the combined fortune of UK billionaires has increased by 22% to £597 billion since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The working class has felt the pain, while the ruling class continues to make a huge gain!
Sunak is making war on the poor, raising National Insurance and taking £1,000 a year away from families on Universal Credit, at the same time as pledging wage rises for some sections of the public sector which in no way match the trade union demand of a 15% pay rise all round.
Greenwich University has calculated that a wealth tax on the top 1% of UK households – those with fortunes of more than £3.6m – could generate at least £70bn a year, equivalent to 8% of the current total tax take, but affect only about 250,000 households.
Sunak will not do this. He is determined to defend and protect the ruling class and make the working class and the poor pay for the crisis that the bosses’ capitalist system has created.
Sunak will hope today’s pay package – which is to include raising the minimum wage to £9.50 for people over 23 – will win the active or even passive support of the TUC.
However, the TUC has said that the pay freeze will not be over unless the Chancellor fully funds increases above the rising cost of living.
Opposition MPs have already accused the Tories of presiding over a huge rise in the cost of living with cuts to Universal Credit and tax rises to fund the NHS and social care privatisation.
There is even disquiet among some Conservative backbenchers too, about whether ministers should be doing more to help struggling working class households, and that if they are pushed under there will be a political price to pay. Others say that if Thatcher could do it, then they must also wield the axe and cut with a vengeance .
The UK’s largest union, Unison, has said the pay freeze will continue ‘in all but name’ unless government departments get many more billions in extra money.
Its general secretary, Christina McAnea, said while there is ‘never a good time to freeze public sector pay’, to do so ‘at the peak of a pandemic is the height of folly’ while ‘staff are doing their all to keep under-pressure services running.’ She added: ‘There can be no decent public services without the people to run them.’
The TUC must follow the example of the RMT and take action to defend its members.
It must demand a 15% rise for all workers, and tell the Tories that if they will not do it, then the TUC will call a general strike to bring them down and bring in a Workers Government and Socialism!