RAIL SERVICES across the north of England ground to a halt at the weekend as rail workers on Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western struck over our long-running pay claims. Despite freezing weather over 50 striking guards and retail staff on Arriva Trains Northern joined a mass picket at Skipton station, North Yorkshire. Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, joined them and spoke at a lively meeting after.
He said recent statements from the government's Strategic Rail Authority show they are centrally involved in the current rail disputes, not just at Arriva but also at First North Western. 'Aslef and RMT drivers are striking together,' says one First North Western driver.
'That unity is important. So is the fact that we are on strike alongside Arriva. 'We are going to need more action to take on the train operating companies. And it's not just on those two companies.'
Bob Crow told the Skipton rally that the RMT is not prepared to walk away from confronting a hard-nosed management. The union is also throwing its support behind the firefighters. If they win it will be a step forward for all of us. Arriva management is sinking to new lows. It is trying to prevent staff taking leave they are entitled to.
A letter from the passenger manager at Leeds, Dawn Atkins, has threatened disciplinary action against staff for chewing gum or smoking. Our next strike is on Saturday 2 November, when First North Western is due to be out too.
It is also the day of the Public Sector Alliance demonstration in Newcastle (see article bottom left), and we will be ensuring a good turnout of Arriva strikers. Solidarity is what can win this strike - from rail workers and others. That can put pressure on Arriva, First North Western and all the other rail companies.
And it can raise our confidence to stick by our guns and take the kind of action that can crack management.
Donations to the strike fund are urgently needed. Send c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD.