A rail worker and union rep at the heart of a crucial battle for jobs is challenging New Labour at the ballot box.
Bill Rawcliffe worked as a track maintenance worker for Jarvis, a private company that profited from outsourced rail maintenance work.
It has now gone bust, leaving hundreds out of work, including Bill.
The RMT union member is standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Doncaster North against minister Ed Miliband.
Jarvis workers are angry that Labour did nothing to save their jobs as the company went down.
“Over 1,200 have been sacked at Jarvis,” Bill told Socialist Worker. “This is our seventh week without pay. We have to organise—we’re not just going to go away.”
Two weeks ago 300 sacked Jarvis workers marched through Doncaster demanding action. They also protested in York on Wednesday of last week.
Bill said, “We made phone calls, emailed, sent texts and got the demo together. It was very successful. It galvanised people and more people got involved, including unions.”
“As well as the sacked workers, there are also 3,000-4,000 Jarvis pensioners, all looking for help.
“It would have taken just £19 million to save the business—money that would have been repaid through future profits.
“There is five years worth of work planned, all with the funding in place.
“Instead it will cost the taxpayers millions more than this to pick up the pensions deficit, the cost of the redundancies and all the dole money and benefits of the sacked workers.
“This isn’t about the recession. The maintenance work on the track is still there to be done.
“This is about giving a blank sheet to a new private company, with lower wages and without the pension liabilities.
“Some of the ex-Jarvis guys have been offered work in Livingstone, Scotland. It’s five and quarter hours travel there, a 12 hour shift, then five and quarter hours back. How safe is that?
“The rail part of Jarvis’ business has always been profitable. It never lost a penny. But the money was siphoned off to Jarvis’ PFI projects, investment schemes and so on.”
“The banks have pulled the plug and now the profitable part is going to the wolves but the indebted part is going to be saved.”
“That’s why I’ve decided to stand against New Labour minister Ed Miliband as a TUSC candidate.
“We have no illusions about winning. But it has got Ed Miliband twitching. He phoned me—it was an interesting conversation. He wanted me to delay my decision to stand, saying it wasn’t ‘helpful’.
“He expressed sympathy for our situation but said Labour had no power to intervene. This is rubbish. Network Rail was created and funded by the Labour government.
“They entered an illegal war in which thousands have died—they can make a decision on that but not to save our jobs.
“If I’m elected I don’t want the obscene salary MPs get. I would take just an average rail workers’ wage.
“I’ve been a trade union member and rep for many years. I left the Labour Party when Tony Blair came in and have not been politically active since—but I threw myself into trade union activity with the RMT.
“After talking to Miliband, I believe I am just as capable as he is—there’s nothing about my secondary modern education that makes me less qualified to make decisions than him.
“They couldn’t run a sweetshop.”