‘The TUC should have called a general strike already. They’re too slow to act,’ was the message from the Waterloo Station picket line yesterday as more than 50,000 RMT members took their first day of strike action.
The railway workers held the first of three days of srike action this week against thousands of job cuts as well as huge attacks on pay, conditions, safety and pensions, with further strike days tomorrow and Saturday.
At Waterloo Station, B J Awosanya, RMT branch secretary, told News Line: ‘The whole of Network Rail is shut. This is not an action against the public, it’s to stop the government ripping off the railways. British Railways should be protected against these monsters, the private rail companies.
‘The TUC should have called a general strike already. They’re too slow to act. Our staff can’t afford to pay their bills. The government gives the impression that rail workers get well paid. Some people are only on £21,000 a year. Trying to live in London is near impossible.’
Terry Lee, also on the picket at Waterloo, said: ‘We’re just one hour into the strike. There’s great support within the union. The public know it will cause a few problems but they are still very much more pro than con. The issues are the cost of living, job security and pensions. These are the same issues that affect everyone else so people understand why we are striking.’
At Victoria Station in Central London, strikers were joined on the picket line by several Labour MPs and MEPs from the Campaign Group, in defiance of Labour leader Starmer’s orders not to back the strike.
One of the pickets, Kwami Sampong told News Line, ‘We’re here to defend our jobs and living standards. As we can see the inflation rate is around 11%. For three years our pay has been frozen so in order to keep up with the cost of living, we need to fight.
‘That’s because all of the rights we enjoy now have come about because of the struggle of the trade unions. So the current situation will not change without us struggling for it.’
Labour MP Richard Burgon said after attending the picket: ‘I was speaking to a worker this morning at the picket line who is on £24,000 a year and is really struggling to get by. It’s important that Members of Parliament hear these stories, especially when the government is smearing railway workers in such a way, saying that they’re all really well-paid, making out that somehow railway workers and cleaners are somehow greedy and at the same time as the Conservative government is now talking about lifting the cap on the City bankers and bosses bonuses.
‘It is important that we take the side of the majority of working people across the board during this cost of living emergency.
‘I think it’s a big mistake for the Labour leadership to distance itself from working class people who have been forced into this action by this terrible government and by these train companies who are still making hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds in profit. It’s important to show which side we’re on.’