Socialist Worker

As walkouts hit schools, BMW, colleges and the railways - strikes are an election issue

Issue No. 2551

BMW workers on strike in Cowley, Oxfordshire, last week

BMW workers on strike in Cowley, Oxfordshire, last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Several groups of workers are refusing to put their struggles to one side in the run-up to the general election and are holding successful strikes.

Workers at three south east London schools struck against cuts this week and last..

Meanwhile Unite union members at BMW are holding a series of walkouts to defend their pensions.

More groups of workers are preparing to take action this week. Some 4,600 further education lecturers in Scotland were set to strike over pay on Thursday of this week.

And over 1,000 rail train guards and drivers were set to walk out on Friday of this week on the Northern rail network.

Around 2,000 workers on East Coast were set to strike for 48 hours on the same day. Part of their dispute is defending the role of the train guard and opposing driver only operation (DOO).

The strike was suspended after the union said progress had been made in talks.

DOO undermines safety but is part of a wider Tory plan to further privatise the railways and weaken unions.

The battle at BMW will also have broader implications as bosses elsewhere look to attack pensions.

Engine

BMW workers struck at Cowley in Oxfordshire, at Swindon and at the BMW engine factory at Hams Hall on Thursday of last week.

Unite reps estimated that most of the 1,900 pension scheme members in Cowley picketed over the course of the day. Bosses want to close workers’ final salary pension scheme—snatching away thousands of pounds.

Ken has worked at Cowley for 35 years. He told Socialist Worker, “When you’re coming to the end of your working life, you start making plans.

“And something you’ve relied on and paid into all that time is suddenly gone.

“This is a firm making billions in profit. It’s like they’re saying all the work we’ve put in isn’t appreciated.”

Unite rep Jim added, “I’m not asking for the earth—just what I’ve been paying for. It’s scandalous they are taking it away.”

BMW workers walked out again in Cowley and Swindon last Sunday. Unite members from the nearby Honda plant in Swindon visited pickets to show their support.

They said they came because “BMW workers have always supported us when we’ve been under attack”.

Campaigners from Bath Against Cuts and other trade unionists also joined the picket line to show solidarity.

The Sunday strike made Monday another lost day of production by preventing regular maintenance. Jim said, “They asked us to move that one because it would be disruptive—we told them that’s the point.”

Pav is a forklift driver and union rep at Cowley. “We’ve been bending over backwards for them for years and now they stab us in the back,” he told Socialist Worker.

“This isn’t about them needing the money—we know they can afford it.”

It will take a sustained fight to beat an attack that is part of a general onslaught on pension schemes. But workers have shown their determination to fight.


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