BOSSES OF three train operating companies have retreated after strikes or the threat of strikes. Silverlink, which runs trains in north London, upped its pay offer to 4 percent for this year, with a 35-hour week from this winter. Freight company EWS agreed to cut the length of its drivers' shifts.
First North Western was forced to meet some of its drivers' demands over unfair disciplinary procedures. 'I'm pleased about those successes,' said Mark Russell, an RMT rep on Arriva. 'It's made us even more determined to stick out for a decent pay increase.'
Strikes are planned on Arriva Trains Northern on Thursday and Friday of this week, and on Friday and Saturday of next week, in the ongoing dispute over pay. 'There's going to be a mass picket in Newcastle on Saturday 4 May, and we are planning a big contingent of Arriva strikers on the Newcastle May Day march that day,' one Arriva worker told Socialist Worker.
The company is hoping financial hardship will break the resolve of the guards, supervisors and retail staff. But an Arriva guard said, 'The spirit remains high, particularly after Arriva bosses gave themselves big pay increases. 'Donating to the union's national disputes fund is a practical way for other trade unionists to support us.'
The RMT union is moving towards a dispute with the train operating companies over safety. There is also pressure from all three rail unions for a return to national pay bargaining. 'Our strike is another sign that we can beat the train operating companies,' First North Western driver Steve West told Socialist Worker. 'We got the company to pay the full wages of a sacked driver until his retirement date later this year. We got a review, including trade union representation, of three other disciplinary cases. But the fundamental procedure that has got up people's noses appears to remain in place. We could have won more if we had continued with the strikes planned this week. The company was in no position to take us on. It's like we have had defeats for so many years that people can grab the first offer the management comes up with. It's a step forward, but we should bear that in mind for the future.'