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From: The Socialist issue 915, 7 September 2016: #KeepCorbyn: Build the movement against austerity

Search site for keywords: RMT - Workers - Rail - The Socialist - Socialist - John Reid - Union - London - London underground - Strike - Trade union - Transport - Trains - Tube Lines - Shop Stewards - Fares - Health and safety - National Shop Stewards Network

RMT executive member John Reid speaks to the Socialist

Rail workers fighting back!

Southern workers on strike in June protest in Brighton photo Neil Cafferky

Southern workers on strike in June protest in Brighton photo Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge)

The summer has been a 'hot' one for the RMT union of transport and maritime workers, with a number of disputes on the rail network and in the offshore oil industry. The union has received much support and solidarity from workers and rail passengers and coverage in the press. RMT executive member and Socialist Party member John Reid spoke to the Socialist about the union's busy summer.

The disputes the RMT has been involved in this summer are all tied to the bosses' drive to implement austerity and severe cutbacks. There has been the drive to implement driver-only operated trains on Southern, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and ScotRail.

There has been some resolution of the ScotRail dispute due to the action we have taken but on Southern, the bosses are failing to succumb to an agreement.

We were close but we know from outside sources there has been pressure from the government for the bosses to carry on attacking, which has been shown by the government giving this company a 20 million pay off. The company has made full-year profits of 100 million at the same time as bringing misery to thousands of passengers who pay very high fares for the service. The major issue is the removal of guards which has led to an increase of platform incidents already and the dispute will go on. We are back out on strike on 7 and 8 September.

On London Underground there have been ongoing disputes. On the Piccadilly line there has been a breakdown in relations with management and on the Hammersmith and City line, as well as in engineering, there is an attempt to take away a core working agreement. These workers are balloting at the moment to defend their terms and conditions.

Cuts

Management are putting forward more proposals to make cuts of 2.9 billion on London Underground. They are attempting to do this by worsening our conditions and pay but we will resist them.

It is a question of resisting austerity measures and we will re-ballot if needed and will ensure we meet imposed thresholds required by new government legislation. We will ensure we remain a militant, fighting trade union, despite the Trade Union Act.

We have also had the first maritime strike for almost 30 years against Wood Group, a multinational oil and gas services company. It looks like many of the demands will be met due to the heroic strike action by this group of offshore workers. The company was making huge profits from North Sea oil but is now facing a fall in profits and wants to take that out on the workers.

The strike was backed up by protests outside Shell headquarters in London and other areas, supported by the National Shop Stewards Network.

We've won a number of victories; one of them was on the London Underground which brought tube lines from private company Amey back in house, which is a major victory by the union. While on Southern management have backed down on the closure of 83 ticket offices, which is a victory too.

Press

The press coverage we have received has been the usual for our union. But in the Southern dispute for example, I don't think they've been able to find a passenger who backs the company over the union despite their best efforts.

On London Underground the majority of passengers back our struggle against austerity which they relate to their own workplace. The Daily Mail claimed our president, Sean Hoyle, recieved 47,000 in expenses. But these sorts of expenses are simply not paid out by our union and at the time they claim that he got these expenses he wasn't even president!

We are used to these attacks, they only attack us because we are a militant trade union not carrying out the wishes of the bosses.

Commuter trains are packed, unreliable and overpriced, photo Kurtis Garbutt (Creative Commons)

Commuter trains are packed, unreliable and overpriced, photo Kurtis Garbutt (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

As for 'Traingate', across the rail network there are issues of overcrowding. There should be an increase in stock, a full subsidy of National Rail and on London Underground - instead of cutting the subsidies, the money should be increased. There are forever increasing numbers of passengers on National Rail and London Underground. We should have fully financed, publically owned rail.

All workers should be brought in house, getting rid of agency work, with a decent wage and decent conditions. I think the interesting thing is that the evidence of other passengers on board the train Jeremy Corbyn was on was that they suffered the same situation, seats weren't available immediately.

We have a position that rail should be nationalised and Jeremy Corbyn supports that, people around the country support that.

Across the rail network we need greater staffing, for health and safety reasons and rail should be about the service we provide for users and passengers, not about profit. The whole system should be about need, not profit.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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Article dated 7 September 2016

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