Ever more hysteria is whipped up daily against striking workers. They’re accused of “ruining Christmas” and never mind that there are never any trains on the 25th and 26th of December - the only 2 days in the year that all railway workers can be sure of a holiday! Or that engineering works stop most trains the week after, as well! And never mind either, that the “real” strikes are scheduled a full week before Xmas!
But no, while the bosses and government throw the whole population to the wolves this winter, while its energy policy allows gas and electricity giants to multiply their profits at public expense - ministers accuse the RMT union of holding the public to ransom! They really do think that the public are fools!
As the RMT’s mild-mannered Mick Lynch pointed out to Radio 4's Justin Webb on Tuesday, “the public” includes a great many workers who’re involved in the strikes this winter! So no, railway workers aren’t holding any fellow-worker “to ransom”! Quite the contrary. An injury to one is an injury to all, and a win for one is a win for all! Everybody knows that with RPI at 14.2%, a pay rise which is any less than that, remains a cut in real pay.
So yes, railway workers would be 100% right to reject the offer of a miserable 8% over 2 years. After a 3-year pay freeze, that amounts to 8% over 5 years. But what’s far, far, worse, is that the bosses of the so called Rail Delivery Group, which includes the government-appointed bosses of the publicly-owned Network Rail, insist that the pay “rise” is funded by cuts in conditions, jobs, pensions and “changes in working practices”. The working class knows exactly, from bitter experience, what such changes really mean.
Cutting an already poor railway
Indeed, when the ministers go on about rail workers ruining Christmas and their nodding puppets on the BBC and ITV etc., echo them exactly, they never mention what the attacks are, that these workers are fighting against.
For instance that all ticket offices will be closed; maintenance will be cut and even more track and signals engineering work outsourced; the few remaining guards will be taken off trains; all workers on stations and on board will be cut; trains will be less frequent, thus more crowded since the government dishonestly claims that 20% fewer of us are travelling by train. When the opposite is true!
Actually the same Justin Webb of Radio 4 argued that he rode home every day in a “driver-only train” (in fact he didn’t even know that there was no other staff member on board!) and claimed that this seemed “perfectly safe” to him. So, he asked, why was the RMT against getting rid of guards? The idiocy of such blind reasoning is breathtaking!
Of course the list of “changes”, for which one must read “cuts”, is endless. Similar attacks are being made against postal workers and civil service workers; with the aim of totally rewriting their employment contracts, radically cutting numbers (and pensions!) and bringing in a cheaper second tier workforce. Car workers know all about this “tiering” and casualisation!
Nationalist nonsense against nurses!
The campaign against the strikes gets even more laughable when Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative Party chair and ex-cabinet minister many times over, wades in. He just told nurses to “send Putin a message and call off their strike over pay”!
Seriously? What planet does this guy live on? And what on earth is he thinking? Certainly the last thing this warmonger wants, is to encourage people to look at what the government is spending to fuel the Ukraine war and thus raise the demand that the money should be used instead, to pay the nurses!
Health Secretary Steve Barclay, said that it would cost £9 billion to pay them RPI plus 5%, and that this sum was totally “unaffordable”. So the obvious question to ask is “why?”.
Zahawi‘s attempt to play the patriot game over NHS strikes can only backfire: the website Statista estimates British aid and weapons to Ukraine at nearly £6bn so far, in less than one year; the price of the government’s “encouragement” to Ukrainians to fight and die on Nato’s behalf, until the bitter end in this barbaric and ruinous war...
Anyway, finding the money to pay the strikers is no issue: the Bank of England printed money for the speculators during the last crisis - it can just as well print money to pay workers during this one. But it doesn’t even have to. Not only does the Treasury pour money into the killing fields of war, but it’s currently giving hand-outs to big business! Ford workers were shocked at a £600m government “loan” to Ford of Britain to “invest in jobs” at Halewood and Dunton - yes, as if Ford, one of the richest car manufacturing companies in the world, needed to borrow money from a supposedly cash-strapped British government!
Today our class is facing one of the most brutal attacks against pay, working conditions, jobs and employment rights in 40 years - to try to make workers pay for the recession. Which means that all of us, whatever job we do, have an interest - not just in supporting the strikers - but joining them!