Socialist Worker

Taking on the rail fat cats

Issue No. 1681

Bubble bursts after...

Blair's 1,000 days of betrayal

Taking on the rail fat cats

RAIL SERVICES in the south east of England virtually ground to a halt when 1,500 train drivers held a 24 hour strike on Tuesday. The drivers work for privatised rail company Connex. They are demanding a 35 hour week and decent pension rights.

Connex management had boasted they would be able to run a "reasonable" service despite the strike. Yet only six Connex trains arrived at Victoria station in central London by 9.30am instead of the usual 200 plus. One driver told Socialist Worker, "Connex treat us like dogs. "I often work 12 hour shifts for 13 days in a row. I get one day off and then I'm back to work another 13 days. What kind of life is that? I work my guts out to make Connex rich. It all went wrong when the Tories privatised the railways. It's criminal that the Labour government hasn't kicked out these fat cats."

A survey conducted by Connex found that two in three passengers supported the strikers' aims. Rail users know train drivers are not responsible for the state of the railways. Last year's crash at Paddington showed everyone that the rail fat cats put profit before passengers' safety.

Connex management were desperate to break the strikers' determination. They resorted to the bullying tactics that are all too familiar to thousands of workers. They sent a letter to all train drivers saying they would be sacked if they went on strike.

One 24 year old trainee driver from south London said, "I have only worked for the company for nine months. Last week my manager told me I will be sacked if I go on strike. Two days ago another manager said I would fail my probation if I went on strike. But I'm sticking with the union. Something has got be done about these jumped up little Hitlers." The drivers called their managers' bluff. Over 60 drivers joined the union last week.

The strike was 100 percent solid and cost Connex �1 million. One ASLEF union steward on the picket line outside Victoria station said, "We have conducted our ballot to comply with the law. But management still threatens to sack you. This dispute is turning into a battle about the right to belong to a trade union."

Five more 24 hour strikes are planned. Everyone should back the drivers. They are fighting to end the cancer of long hours which is destroying everyone's lives.

  • The Tory policies that bring misery to millions - page 2
  • Moment of truth for this government - page 3
  • Labour members erupt at leaders - page 4

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Article information

Thu 27 Jan 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1681
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