‘STAND FIRM, support the action and mount the pickets,’ RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch urged his members defiantly yesterday afternoon as he confirmed that this week’s three day national rail strike goes ahead as planned.
Over 50,000 RMT members are on strike today in defence of jobs, safety, pay, conditions and pensions
Over 40,000 workers employed by Network Rail and 13 train operating companies are striking today, Thursday and Saturday, while another 10,000 London Underground employees are on strike today, mounting picket lines from 4.30am.
Speaking to the press on the steps of RMT HQ in central London yesterday afternoon, the railway workers leader Mick Lynch said: ‘First of all I want to say thanks to the public.
‘We’ve had tremendous support coming in from all over the country and indeed internationally from ordinary working people, trade unionists and their organisations and that was shown at the rally on Saturday when the RMT received a tremendous ovation from the rest of the organised labour movement of this country.
‘But nevertheless, we’re now moving on now to the next phase of this campaign. What we have come to understand is that the dead hand of this Tory government is all over this dispute.
‘The fingerprints of Grant Shapps and the DNA of Rishi Sunak, are all over the problems on the railway and indeed the problems in this society. And until they allow these employers to negotiate freely, I can’t see that we’re going to get a settlement to the issues that are in front of us.
‘We’ve now had offers from Network Rail and from the Train Operating Companies and the Executive Committee in this building has considered those offers and have rejected both of them.
‘Both sets of proposals are unacceptable and it’s now confirmed that the strike action that is planned for this week will go ahead on London Underground and Network Rail and with the Train Operating Companies
‘The source of this problem is the Tory government’s decision to slash £4 billion of funding from our railway network. They’ve cut £2 billion from the national railway and they’ve cut £2 billion from TfL and that is hobbling this industry and is forcing the companies to implement transport austerity and massive cuts to our system.
‘The rail companies have proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rate of inflation. They do not address the cost of living crisis and they have prevented a settlement to this dispute.
‘At the behest of the government the companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts across the network and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.
‘As a result of this transport austerity, the employing companies have taken the following decisions: to attack the Railway Pension Scheme and the Transport for London Scheme, diluting benefits, making staff work longer, up to 65 years of age, while paying increased contributions.
‘They have decided to cut thousands of jobs across the rail network without that guarantee of no compulsory redundancies. They are cutting safety inspections by maintenance staff on the infrastructure by up to 50% in order to facilitate the mass redundancies and in maintenance alone that will be 3,000 track workers who are out there repairing maintaining the infrastruture and looking after the public. Their jobs are for the chop.
‘They’re attacking the terms and conditions and working practices in a form of internal fire and rehire, including lowering existing salaries and increasing the working week.
‘These attacks mean that no trade union in this country could accept that agenda. And in fact in many ways it’s similar to what P&O have put before us – either you take diluted terms or you leave the industry.
‘They even want to go so far as to restart the dispute on the role and responsibility of the guard and they want to put massive cuts to the catering services on our railway. So we’re going backwards many years to the cuts agenda that we had under Thatcher.
‘They are going further and they told us that they intend to close every single ticket office in Britain regardless of the accessability and needs of the public and the diversity of the passengers that use the railway system.
‘They are cutting real pay of our members and their spending power through lengthy pay freezes for nearly three years for many of our members.
‘Faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts to jobs, conditions and pensions, the RMT has no choice but to defend our members industrially to stop this race to the bottom.
‘The strikes on Network Rail, the train operators and London Underground will go ahead and we again call on our members to stand firm, support the action, mount the pickets and demonstrate their willingness for workplace justice.
‘The RMT supports the campaign for a square deal for all working people in the face of the cost of living crisis and our current campaign is a part of that more general campaign that means that public services have to be properly funded and all workers paid properly with good conditions.’
Ahead of Lynch’s statement, the RMT action received support from the leadership of the PCS and the TUC.