BERNIE SANDERS, US Senator for Vermont, addressed a packed ‘Save London’s Transport’ rally organised by the RMT railway workers union, at London’s TUC building on Wednesday night.
Opening the meeting, Chair Alex Gordon RMT President said: ‘This is a critical moment. The transport system in London, one of the largest cities of the world, is being destroyed.
‘Transport for London are removing 22 bus routes and reducing services on another 60 routes.
‘A further funding gap initiated by the Tory government is preparing a transport disaster.’
Labour MP, John McDonnell, said: ‘The role of the Labour MP is on a picket line. This is a class struggle.
‘There is no wage inflation spiral, but a profit and profiteering spiral.
‘It is time to bring rail, water and energy into public ownership. We need to go beyond windfall taxes to excess profits tax.
‘There should be a pay ratio between workers and CEO’s and executive of no greater than 20.’
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Wheelan said: ‘This is unfinished business. We are the only city in the world receiving no consistent government funding.
‘In addition to transport workers, 43,000 jobs are supported by London Transport.
‘We pledge “No jobs will go while we are fighting”, and “No driverless trains will be imposed while we are fighting”.
Mel Taylor from the TSSA (Transport and Salaried Staffs Association) said: ‘I want to emphasise the consequences of the government’s funding deal announced yesterday which will force TfL to make hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts over the next 19 months.
‘TfL has been deliberately underfunded for years as a result of a dodgy deal between the then-Chancellor George Osborne and the then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson which has cut funding to TfL by £700m every year. As a result TfL faced a cut of 37 per cent cut in their budget in just over 5 years.
‘It was a crisis waiting to happen well before the pandemic came along.
‘TfL is forced to rely on passenger income for 72 per cent of its budget, compared to 38 per cent in cities like New York and Paris.
‘London Underground is forging ahead in cutting 600 front line customer service roles and this is an accident waiting to happen.
‘TSSA is now working alongside other unions and are preparing to ballot our members for strike action’.
Disabled campaigner, comedian and founder of the Disabled People’s Direct Action, Barbara Lisicki said: ‘I want to get the effing Tories out!’ to loud cheers.
‘In the 1980s we couldn’t use public transport but now we have won a lot.
‘But if the Tories do what they are threatening we won’t be able to travel.’
Onay Kasab, Unite London Bus organiser, said: ‘Our members have the answer to Abelio, which is to strike against bus cuts.
‘Bus workers have been on strike against French-owned RATP last week, and strike action is being planned at Arriva, Metroline, Stage Coach and Go Ahead buses. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see all those strikes to be co-ordinated across London?
‘Our policy is not to lobby the Tories but fight back against them. We want nationalisation without compensation and insourcing public transport to give users democratic control as to how it is run.
‘It is not for us to get behind Labour, but the answer is the other way around.
‘Strike action works. Solidarity works.’
Hannah Caterall, CWU member, was on the picket line at Whitechapel early in the morning. She condemned the two per cent imposed pay increase, whilst the chief executives were being paid millions of pounds, with £400 million being paid to shareholders in dividends.
She also condemned Royal Mail’s offer of a £1,500 bonus to workers who would ‘keep a 100 per cent attendance record up until Christmas’ in an effort to break the strike.
Mick Lynch RMT General Secretary said: ‘This is a defensive dispute. The Tories have got their tanks on our lawn.
‘Every public service is now under attack – NHS, CWU, Transport, Care. We have to keep fighting this government and spread the campaign. We are facing £4 billion cuts
‘Transport is a class issue. The poorest people are the ones being attacked. The working class is facing a future locked in their homes.
‘They have not announced the total service closures that are to come.
‘It is the trade union movement that will move politicians in our direction.
‘We need to be organising in communities to get the job done ourselves.
‘People are now ready for change. They are ready for action. We need social action
‘We are not having it. They want to cut £100m a year, every year, out of our members’ pension pot.
‘The issue is broader than transport, and we need to organise our communities, resident associations, tenant organisations.
‘We are opposed to all outsourcing. It should be made illegal.
‘We are campaigning to put rail cleaners back in house, and we want them paid £15 immediately, with full pension and sick pay rights.
‘We can see there is structural racism in society and we are getting to change our country!’
Bernie Sanders, US Senator for Vermont, said: ‘Millions of working class people are proud of what you are doing and we stand with you.
‘What is going on in the UK is the same as in the United States.
‘People at the top getting richer while millions are subject to abject poverty.
‘In the US, three multibillionaires own more wealth than half of the rest of society – 160 million people.
‘In the US, we have serious problems of addiction – drug addiction, alcohol addiction – there are many addictions, but there is another addiction in the horrific addiction of Greed!
‘Greed beyond our understanding.
‘People who have tens and tens of billions of dollars want to crush the working class so they can have more.
‘They have more than they can spend in a thousand lifetimes. We are working for a government that works for all, not just the few.
‘There is a growing concentration of ownership. Right now there are three firms on Wall St – Blackrock, Stagecreep and Vanguard – that control assets of twenty trillion dollars.
‘Our challenge is to bring people together to stand up against the demagogues, who want to divide us in the fight for justice in a world that belongs to all of us.
‘There is an explosion of technology that could improve life for working people yet people are seeing a decline in their standard of living. Real wages today are lower than 50 years ago.
‘Our job is to take on the oligarchs. No workers or their children should be going hungry, and every child should have the best schools imaginable.
‘Six hundred thousand people in the US are homeless, with 18 million households spending at least half their income on housing.
‘Your healthcare system here is different. And I understand that they are trying to privatise it, but you are ahead of us because today in the US, some 70 million Americans are uninsured.
‘Every year 60,000 die because they cannot get a doctor and they cannot afford the outrageous cost of prescription drugs.
‘Our job internationally is to stand together all over the world to make it clear to the oligarchs that their power is ending.
‘In the US more trade unions are organising than we have seen in a very long time. Unions are now more popular than they have been since the 1960s.
‘In the US we are trying to grow the trade union movement into an economic and political force of real power.
‘Fletcher Douglass, an abolitionist, said: “There is no success, no justice without struggle – they are never going to give it to you.”
‘The only way justice ever comes about is to stand up, we take them on and we win, that is what this struggle is about.
‘What you are doing is being noticed around the world. Let us go forward together and keep our eyes on the prize, let’s transform the world’s economy.’