RMT Pickets Call For A General Strike

RMT picket line on Tuesday morning at London Bridge

OVER 40,000 workers are supporting the action and manning the picket lines again today as the RMT railwayworkers union takes this week’s second day of strike action against Tory attacks on jobs, pay, conditions, safety and pensions, with the third strike day on Saturday.

The country was shut down on Tuesday as the union held its first strike day, with numerous Labour MPs, including shadow cabinet members, defying Labour Party leader Starmer’s instructions and joining RMT members on picket lines.

News Line toured the picket lines on Tuesday.

At Paddington Station, RMT member Steve Layne told News Line: ‘This strike is bigger than the just about railways, it’s about the whole of society. Teachers are balloting and ASLEF drivers, even barristers will be on strike next week.

‘I knew we had support for the strike in theory but when I was on the demonstration through London on Saturday we were cheered, it was really impressive. This is not just an industrial dispute, it is a class struggle.’

RMT River Thames branch secretary Sarah Emmings came to Paddington to offer her support to the strikers. Asked how she thought the action should proceed she said: ‘Bring on the general strike.’

At St Pancras Station, RMT picket supervisor Mohammad Sheikh said: ‘Our main reason for being here is the lack of a pay rise. We’re not demanding anything big, just a fair pay rise, considering the above 11% inflation rate.

‘People think that railway workers enjoy special discounts and privileges but that is not true. Our travel discount in the very railways that we work in, has been removed.

‘Railway workers do not receive Sunday pay for 18 days in the year. Combine this with the lack of a pay rise and you can really see that we are not treated fairly in any way by the companies and the government running this system.

‘In my personal capacity I am completely in favour of a general strike. If workers do not come together and halt the economy that makes profits for the big companies, we will never be given our due.

‘We need proper guidance and leadership. Right now, people that don’t support the general strike are too afraid about what might happen to their jobs or too distrustful of current trade union leadership and the Labour Party leadership which has become completely anti-trade union.

‘I blame the media for not portraying the truth about the living conditions and struggles of railway workers to afford basic necessities with the current rate of inflation.

‘It needs to start telling the truth so that public perception is changed. I support a general strike all the way, we must nationalise the railways so that it works for everyone – the travellers and the workers they depend on for seamless services.’

Kings Cross RMT Assistant Branch Secretary and train guard Darren Parker said: ‘I agree with a general strike. I think the time has come for the working class to stand up for itself. We’ve lived far too long under the auspices of austerity.

‘We’re under a government that’s hell-bent on sowing division among the working class. I’m for bringing it down. You can see more billionaires while working people are struggling on poor wages. That falls firmly at the feet of this government.

‘And if Keir Starmer was elected, I don’t see there would be a dfference. He doesn’t support this struggle today. I want a government for the working class.’

Fellow Kings Cross picket and train dispatcher Michelle Owen stressed: ‘We’re not just doing this for ourselves but for everybody, for safety. We need to keep our jobs, get a proper pay rise and keep our terms and conditions. Our union is an excellent union. All the other unions should come out as well. All unions should stand together and defeat this government’s attacks. We have five weeks training, you can’t have agency workers doing safety-critical jobs.’

At the  normally busy West Ruislip station there was silence on Tuesday morning as no Chiltern Line or Underground trains were running.

Darren Lalli RMT industrial rep told News Line: ‘I am immensely proud to be an RMT member today. I urge all unions to join forces and take down this Tory government. At West Ruislip Depot it is very unfortunate that some ASLEF members have crossed our picket line and  can’t see the bigger picture. Therefore, I urge the ASLEF leadership to do the right thing for workers and join this dispute.’

Train operator Chris James said: ‘I’m proud to stand here and fight for what is right and make a stand against what the government have been trying to force through. The government has an agenda to crush the RMT and force through what they have always wanted, which is to cut our pensions, rip up our conditions and destroy any union strength in the rail industry.

‘It is very telling in the UK that other sectors are taking action and balloting against what the government are doing to most industries. Paying out billions of pounds to shareholders in this current climate is totally inexcusable, especially not long after the pandemic. Everybody has suffered enough in the last few years, especially the working class, so everyone should strike together.’

At Acton Town Station in west London, RMT Tier 2 health and safety rep Carlos Barros said: ‘This is the biggest rail strike since the 1980s, with 42,000 members striking on the railways and 14,000 on the Underground. The RMT has got a very strong support message from the public and everyone else. We see it as the start of a mass workers movement in the country and we would support a general strike.’

At Liverpool Street station in east London, Wale Agunbiade, RMT Branch Secretary of East London Rail, said: ‘The reason we’re striking is because we want a fair wage for everybody and we want to stop cuts to our jobs.

‘They want to stage a concerted attack on everyone’s living standards and if we don’t fight back, we’ll be in a worse condition as we’re facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation and we have to fight against everything that’s coming our way.’

Nelson Ajube, RMT rep at Liverpool Street Station, said: ‘The strike is about a decent pay rise, jobs safety and security and the opportunity of having a normal standard of living. The strike is about challenging the injustices of the cost of living. Social inequality, inflation, job cuts and pay gaps.

‘I want employers and government to listen to people and provide for the betterment of working class people. If the government don’t listen to our demands, they’ll be a continuation of poverty, inequality and agitation because people’s needs are not being provided for.’

Marvin Thompson, RMT train driver at Liverpool Street, said: ‘We’re striking to prevent cuts. We need to stand together to prevent these cuts. They might not effect me now, but they are effecting my colleagues in terms of their jobs and conditions and they will effect me later on.

‘I want to see a proper pay rise as everything is going up, whether it’s petrol, electricity, food, even going to restaurant or takeaway food, they’re all well expensive. If the Tories refuse to listen to our demands, there will be more strikes because that is the only way we can get our point across.’

At Seven Sisters Station the RMT union flag was accompanied by a Palestinian flag, as part of the Finsbury Park RMT branch one-day strike on London Underground.

Farooq, RMT assistant secretary for Finsbury Park, told News Line: ‘Our branch is the largest on the Underground, with 1,500 members. Everybody is out. I give special thanks to ASLEF, the drivers’ union, who are not on strike but are refusing to cross picket lines.

‘The Tories would rather spend the money on dodgy PPE contracts of £40bn and dodgy business loans of £50bn, while we are set to lose 600 frontline Underground staff. We will be less visible at stations and stations will be unstaffed at night, leaving vulnerable people at risk.

‘We need a new government. It’s Labour’s duty to commit to policies not rhetoric. All trade unions and trade unionists should coordinate action. Our fight is your fight and your fight is our fight.’

John Gutteridge, RMT Learning Rep at London Bridge, said: ‘We are all out here today fighting against what the Tory government wants to do as regards dismantling the railway, changing our terms and conditions and not even bothering to talk about pay.

‘What they have offered is derisory to say the least. They don’t care anyway. They are just blinkered, all they care about is themselves. The next port of call may have to be a general strike if they keep refusing to negotiate.

‘There are other unions within the TUC that are actually on board with what we are doing, so if we could all come out together that would be a good thing, The government use the tactic of divide and rule.’

Pip Lawrence, Customer Services Assistant at London Bridge Underground Station, said: ‘This cost of living crisis is affecting everybody. It doesn’t matter what the Tories say, what spin they like to put on it, people are crying out for more money. We really need to get together and have all unions unite over this.

‘The RMT are the flagbearers at the moment, the teachers are coming out soon, they are balloting and even the barristers are coming out, with Legal Aid being cut. Once again everything these politicians touch seems to be aimed against the working class. We have all got to wake up and fight back.’

John Andrews, RMT striker at London Bridge, said: ‘I’m here to fight for my job. Management will carry out a systematic erasure of jobs in the railway sector if there is not a fight waged against it. If you cut 50% of maintenance staff, in as soon as the next three months, it will devastate the service and there will definitely be more accidents on the railways. The Labour leader has got a decision to make, is he going to continue trying to be central or is he going to take a side? There needs to be a new leadership because the leaders we have got right now aren’t doing a great job.’

Phil Rowan, Industrial Rep on the Victoria Line, said: ‘London Undergound workers have been on strike several times recently against 600 job cuts and changes to our national conditions, and attacks on our pensions. Today we have joined the 40,000 members working in National Rail and the different train operating companies.

‘At the minute, the government seem determined to take the RMT on and are not making any serious offers, so we need other sections, like the nurses, firefighters, retail and supermarket workers – the whole trade union movement to come out on strike.

‘This is a fight between workers all over the country and the government and the bosses. The Tories are there as the political representatives of the billionaire class, the 1%, trying to make as much profit from every industry they can.

‘They use the law, they use the courts, they want to bring in agency workers to scab, and provide what they call a “Minimum Service”, a law which was first brought in by the fascist General Franco in Spain against transport strikes.

‘The government are happy to take on one union at a time, or one industry like transport, but they can’t take every industry on.’