Socialist Worker

Striking for public services

Two crucial disputes show how workers can beat back privatisation and cuts write railworker Unjum Mirza and NHS nurse Karen Reissmann

Issue No. 2067

London Underground

by Unjum Mirza, RMT political officer for the London Transport region (pc)

A strike by 2,300 London Underground workers disrupted the capital city this week. The strike showed the power workers have to stop privatisation and defend public services.

Members of the RMT union who work for the failed Metronet consortium began a three-day strike from Monday of this week.

The strike meant that tube bosses had to suspend the service on nine out of the 12 lines that serve London.

Metronet is responsible for the maintenance and infrastructure of two thirds of the network.

Five private companies that have made huge profits from privatisation ran the consortium. It ran up £1.9 billion worth of debt and then went into administration.

Now it wants the public, and tube workers, to pay the price for their failure.

The public faces having to pay more for a worse service.

Tube workers face a lack of job security and cuts in their pensions.

Despite London mayor Ken Livingstone’s claims, none of the demands for guarantees over these issues have been met.

But the strength of the action has forced Metronet to offer talks over the key issues.

The tube workers are demanding an end to privatisation and they will fight to bring the service back in-house.

Privatisation has been a disaster for our services, whether it be education, the NHS or the public transport system. Tube workers are sending a message to Gordon Brown that they won’t stand for it anymore.

We need similar fights around the country to turn the tables on Brown and his privateer friends.


National Health Service

by Karen Reissmann, chair of Unison’s Manchester community and mental health branch (pc)

Dedicated health workers do not take the decision to strike lightly. We agonise over the safety of our patients, and we worry about the way our actions will be presented in the media.

So many people will find it remarkable that 700 mental health workers in Manchester – including support workers, admin staff, nurses and therapists – are out in a series of three-day strikes.

Our action is a response to my suspension, which I was told of while helping a particularly vulnerable patient.

By speaking out against cuts, reorganisations and privatisation, I had caused my employers to “lose confidence” in me.

This strike is about the right to have a union that fights back. The branch I help lead has taken successful action to defend the NHS from threats of job losses and privatisation. In doing so we have won support from patients and the public.

For more than two decades the free market has been allowed to let rip through the NHS.

Almost all the services we provide are now considered ripe for privatisation. The result has been plummeting patient care and rock-bottom morale among staff.

After I was suspended, almost 90 percent of Unison union members at my trust voted to strike. That vote is a result of years of frustration at the way staff have been taken advantage of by management, and about what the reduced service we are able to provide will mean for our patients.

Management have made it clear that they intend to show a tough face.

I appeal to every trade unionist to get behind our fight.


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