THE RMT strike action went ahead yesterday after talks on Wednesday broke down without agreement.
John Gutteridge, RMT Learning Rep spoke to News Line on the super-picket at London Bridge on the second day of the railway workers fight for decent pay and against massive redundancies and loss of pensions.
He said: ‘Our wages are not matching the rate of inflation. We have not had a pay rise since 2019, virtually nothing over three years.
‘We also worked all through the Covid pandemic without getting much appreciation from the rail bosses for that either.
‘I mean the Tories have got no interest in negotiating with the RMT. They are just interested in their profits, and would like to break the union.
‘They are the ones that determine what can and cannot be negotiated, not British Rail bosses.
‘But we are showing a united front with other workers and if they want to come out with us they are very welcome.’ At Paddington station RMT pickets were joined by a delegation from Brent Trades Council, whose secretary Nick Jones told News Line: ‘This strike is the first big battle with this Tory government.
‘It is vital to win this dispute, and a general strike would be great.
‘I think the government and Network rail have misjudged the situation because people can see how hypocritical the government are.’
On the picket line at Surbiton Station yesterday morning RMT rep Hayley Bouchard said: ‘We’re low-paid workers fighting to fend off the cost of living crisis. Media claims that we are highly paid is officially twaddle.
‘We’re in for a long struggle with other sectors joining. We’ve got a message from the NHS offering ‘‘unconditional solidarity’’.
‘It says: ‘‘We are appalled by the claim that the RMT action will harm NHS patients.
‘‘The real harm comes from government refusal to properly fund the NHS. Don’t let them divide us. Victory to the railway workers.’’
‘It shows the strength of feeling out there and shows we’re all in the same boat – as long as it’s not a P&O one!’
News Line spoke to striking railway workers in the City of London’s Liverpool Street station.
Pierre Mooneapilay, a driver for Great Anglia and RMT member said. ‘What the government are saying about railway workers is not the whole truth. We’re striking to protect our colleagues, terms and conditions and to ensure a safe railway and so it’s not just about money.
‘At the moment we feel we’re fighting to stay still in regards to them wanting to rip up our terms and conditions and we feel that if they don’t consider our terms and conditions, the RMT are ready to stand up for our workers and colleagues.’
There was a big picket at Waterloo station on the second day of the three days of strike action called by the RMT.
The union’s Branch Secretary at Waterloo, BJ Awosanya, told News Line, ‘This is our second day of this strike. All we’re asking is for the government to make a realistic offer.
‘We just want a decent wage, but they are making it very difficult for us. People are being told they are losing their jobs. But they could easily negotiate the changes they want to bring in.’
At Victoria Station, RMT regional organiser Paul Cox said: ‘The government including Grant Shapps are lying. They are denying any involvement in this strike and that’s just not true. They could easily resolve it with a decent pay rise. And Keir Starmer seems to be just trying to attract votes from the middle ground, so he’s keeping his distance’
Mick James, a track access controller at London Underground (LU) commented: ‘This has been coming for two years. We have been in negotiations. They’ve been constantly re-organising since 2016 – cutting back on office staff, putting more work on people. There’s been 30% less admin in some areas, causing a rise in sickness.
‘Now they’re coming for 600 job cuts, mainly station staff, at LU. This is very detrimental to staff and would cause more very early and very late shifts.
‘This is definitely political now. Transport for London keep saying: ‘We haven’t got the gift’— to maintain pensions and job numbers.
‘They quote the amount of money they have got to save. There are strings attached to all the money they are offering. On the 23 June again, the money runs out and is crunch-time.
‘All LU staff in Unite came out with us on Tuesday.
‘This government is a shambles – you can’t trust them. So we will need a general strike. All out. The whole country. All organised workers.’