Three hundred sacked Jarvis workers marched through Doncaster on Friday of last week chanting, “Work not dole” and, “Our jobs have been stolen”.
Jarvis, a privateering company that made a fortune out of PFI projects, went bust and sacked its workers just before the Easter weekend.
Workers on leave were rung up and told to come in to clear their desks immediately.
There were no negotiations about redundancies and no holiday pay. No redundancy money been offered.
Network Rail and the New Labour government have played a role in the disaster. Network Rail is in debt to the tune of £24 billion.
Jarvis needed to draw down the money for the next year’s contract, but Network Rail, knowing that Jarvis had a shortfall of £19 million, refused. This gave Jarvis the perfect excuse to sack well paid, highly skilled and well organised workers.
Alex Gordon, president of the RMT union which represents many of the workers, was loudly cheered at an angry rally outside the Mansion House.
He said, “This amounts to job theft. The work that Jarvis employees were doing has been simply taken over by other contractors at a lower rate.”
He outlined a two-pronged strategy to fightback. First he promised to ballot workers at other contractors who are doing the work of Jarvis for less money and on worse conditions of employment.
Then he said, “The government should see this as a crisis and issue an immediate Rail Administration Order leading to the nationalisation of the railways.
“But if New Labour won’t act we will be standing a redundant Jarvis worker, Bill Rawcliffe, against Ed Miliband in Doncaster North as a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate.”
After the rally there was a meeting with local MP Rosie Winterton at the Trades Club. All she could offer was sympathy.
Speakers who attacked the anti-union laws and demanded the nationalisation of the railways got the most applause.
Trevor, the Jarvis worker who initiated the protest, told Socialist Worker, “The whole thing was organised by telephone and email. Jarvis has torn the heart out of 2,000 families and their action is despicable.
“I have never done this before but the feeling of camaraderie today is great. We want your readers to support all our rallies. The next one is in York this Wednesday 14 April.”
Mark Hardeman of the TSSA transport union, which also represents Jarvis workers, said, “The government and transport minister Lord Adonis knew all about what was going on with Jarvis.
“The public need to get behind us because our fight for justice is also a fight for safety. How many more rail disasters do there need to be?
It is ironic that the first bank holiday I have had at home for the last eight years is when Jarvis sacked me.”
Craig Shaw has been out of work for five weeks. He explained that he has no money because he was not paid his last month’s wages, nor given redundancy money by Jarvis. He is denied Jobseeker’s Allowance because he is “still waged”.
Jarvis workers’ were due to protest at 11.30am, on Wednesday 14 April, outside the company’s York headquarters.