Socialist Worker

Rail and bus workers call coordinated strikes over pay and conditions

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2578

RMT union members picketing in Clacton, Essex, last month

RMT union members picketing in Clacton, Essex, last month (Pic: RMT)


Transport workers in the North West of England were set to stage a 24 hour coordinated strike on Wednesday of next week.

Arriva North bus drivers and engineers in the Unite and GMB unions plan to walk out over pay. It follows a 24-hour strike on Monday of this week.

And rail workers across six networks will strike next week—with four networks also staying out on Thursday of next week.

The bus strike involves some 2,000 bus drivers and engineers across 11 depots.

They say bosses’ latest pay offer does not remedy pay differences between depots or rise in line with inflation.

Eddie Parker, GMB regional secretary, said, “The final pay offer made by the company represents an increase of between 1.2 percent and 2.6 percent.

“Inflation has hit 3 percent, so this is in effect a real terms pay cut for members.”

Arriva North made £25 million profit last year—but offered workers a pay rise of just 31p an hour.

And currently there is up to £1.73 an hour difference between depots. Unions say this would increase to £2 under the latest offer.

RMT union members at Southern, Greater Anglia, South West Railways and Island Line will strike for 48 hours next Wednesday and Thursday.

And RMT members at Northern and Merseyrail will join them on the first day. It is the latest walkout in a long-running dispute over the implementation of driver only operation (DOO).

The Tories’ and train bosses’ plans would remove the safety-critical role of the train guard and undermine safety for passengers.

Negotiating

A Northern Rail guard said, ““Hopefully the next strike will make management sit round the negotiating table and realise they’ve got to sort it out.

“They’re hiding behind their contract with the Department for Transport (DfT). We’ve offered to go with them to the DfT to sort it out but they’ve refused.”

The Isle of Wight’s Island Line is the latest network to join the action after voting 100 percent to strike on an 80 percent turnout.

Southern train drivers in the Aslef union previously struck alongside RMT members over DOO.

They are voting on the latest offer over DOO. This is the third deal the leadership has put to them in the last year.

The two previous ones were rejected by the membership.

The latest deal will deliver a 28 percent pay rise and a second safety critical member of staff on board “except in exceptional circumstances.”

But bosses’ have a broad remit about what “exceptional circumstances” means—including late trains or workers being ill.

Aslef members should reject this deal and fight for one that guarantees a second safety trained member of staff is on board at all times.

Agreeing to this offer weakens the fight to keep trains safe and accessible.

Coordinated action is one way to beat back the bosses’ who ruthlessly pit workers against each other.

The planned strikes have the potential to cause huge disruption in the North West—and are a breakthrough in the fight for higher pay and accesible transport.

Back the bus workers.Send messages of solidarity to George Bresnaham, Unite Branch 6/681, Green Lane, Liverpool L13 6RF and dianne.mcintosh@unitetheunion.org

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