STRIKES ON South West Trains and Arriva Northern were still set to take place next Thursday and Friday as Socialist Worker went to press. Drivers on ScotRail were continuing to refuse to work on rest days. Their action, to win a pay rise to bring them up to the level of other drivers, has led to the cancellation of one in four services.
There is a growing mood for action over pay across the 25 train operating companies. The strike vote on Arriva was 16 to one. Maintenance crews working for Balfour Beatty have also asked for a strike ballot from their RMT union. The scale of the strike votes and the breadth of calls for action across the network destroy claims by rail bosses and the media that union officials are engineering action from above.
Sir Ken Jackson, leader of AMICUS (the new name for the merged AEEU and MSF unions), is a loyal friend of New Labour. He stuck the boot into rail workers who voted for strikes last week. But members of his own union working on SWT are so angry over pay that they too want a strike ballot. Other lines where the RMT union is considering balloting for strike action over pay include Virgin and Connex South East.
Tube drivers, members of the RMT and ASLEF unions, are also demanding a strike ballot over pay. The pressure over pay is a product of rail privatisation.
The private rail companies sacked 3,000 drivers five years ago. Since then the drivers who are left have been able to win pay increases in many areas. Non-driving staff have been left behind. 'We don't begrudge the drivers' increases,' one platform worker at Waterloo station, London, told Socialist Worker. 'It's just that everyone should be entitled to a decent increase. Management are trying to squeeze non-drivers. We can't get a pay increase through robbing Peter to pay Paul-taking from another group of workers. We should get an increase paid for out of the company's profits.'
There is a mood for national action to win national bargaining, which can unite rail workers and help those who have less industrial muscle especially. Activists in the rail unions need to be arguing for that alongside solidarity with those who are already in dispute.
THE NEW issue of Across the Tracks, the rank and file paper for tube and rail workers, is out now, featuring an interview with director Ken Loach on his new film, The Navigators.