‘DEFEAT this Tory onslaught by calling national strike action,’ Chigwell Aslef Chairman Bill Rogers said yesterday in response to the Tory government’s threat to impose a two-year pay freeze on railway workers.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has written to the rail bosses saying that there is ‘no budget’ for the state to bankroll pay rises for the country’s 62,000 rail workers.
In his one-page letter Heaton-Harris says that in the current financial year the government has already bailed out the industry to the tune of £10 billion and claims that the subsidies for the industry are not sustainable.
Tory MP Chris Loder, a former railway guard and now a member of the House of Commons transport select committee, swiftly spoke out to back the attack on his former workmates, saying: ‘It feels to me that a pay freeze is a very small sacrifice given the situation at hand.
‘Other industries in the same situation are not able to sustain such public funding and neither will the railway if this situation continues.’
In response, railway worker Bill Rogers told News Line: ‘The Tory government is planning to take on the rail unions first, before they move onto everyone else, just like they tried to do with the miners back in the 1980s.
‘The railway unions – Aslef, the RMT and TSSA – are strong functioning unions.
‘Despite the lockdowns and everything else, we’ve been able to hold our conditions and our rates of pay up and we’re not prepared to see them cut down or attacked.
‘It doesn’t matter if it’s pay freezes, redundancies or cuts in our conditions – railway workers won’t accept it.
‘In response to the threat of a two-year pay freeze there has to be a national strike of all the railway unions.
‘There needs to be national action because this is a national threat.
‘But not just that – the railways and all privatised railway franchises need to be taken back, nationalised and placed under workers’ control.
‘But this is not just a situation which is being faced by railway workers.
‘Today the bosses, with the support of the Tory government, are using “fire and rehire” to cut the pay and conditions of service of millions of workers, and millions of jobs are going – in local government, in the private sector, everywhere, and of course, they’ll do the same in health.
‘There’s got to be a general strike called by the TUC to bring down the Tory government, to bring down capitalism and replace it with a workers’ state and socialism.
‘That is the only way we can guarantee homes and jobs for everyone.’