By Sarah Bates
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Bus and rail strikes hit back at bosses

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Issue 2580
Southern rail pickets in London
Southern rail pickets in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers on six rail networks and a major bus company created widespread disruption with a coordinated strike today, Wednesday.

Some 2,000 bus drivers and engineers on Arriva North West held their second 24 hour walkout this week, after striking every Monday in October.

The Unite and GMB union members are fighting for a pay rise in line with inflation and an end to pay differences between depots.

The strike is so strong that roads across north west England were gridlocked.

Liverpool was brought to a complete standstill. Not a single Arriva bus left the depots there, compared to 120 around Merseyside on a normal day.

Driver and Unite member Jed was one of up to 70 pickets at Green Lane Stoneycroft depot in Liverpool from the early hours of the morning.

 “Management is offering us pennies in the negotiations,” he said. “Talks are breaking down because they’re not serious offers. Loads of unions have been coming to our picket line and showing us solidarity.”

The strike had got a lot of support from passengers.

“We feel really sorry for the public, and understand they’ve now got huge problems travelling during the strike,” said Jed. “But most people are really supportive and understand why we’re doing it.”

This was the first time the bus workers have walked out the same time as train workers fighting to keep the safety-critical role of guards on trains.

Every train still needs a guard—as the rail tycoons know full well
Every train still needs a guard—as the rail tycoons know full well
  Read More

The RMT union members are fighting a long-running dispute against driver-only operation on six networks around England.

Wednesday’s walkout involved workers on Southern, Greater Anglia, South West Railways, Northern, Merseyrail and the latest addition Island Line.

Those on Southern, Greater Anglia and South Western were also set to stay out on Thursday.

Southern rail workers picketed at London Waterloo station from 4am.

Waterloo station worker and RMT branch secretary Ricky Goodson said, “Passengers are so supportive of our action, especially women who understand that guards play an important role in safety.

“We feel really passionate about the job we do and passionate about this strike”.

The dispute hit a setback as the Aslef union accepted a bad deal, including driver-only operation, on Southern—leaving RMT to fight alone (see below).

But the fightback continues to spread and in some cases Aslef members have refused to cross RMT picket lines. Escalating the strikes can beat the rail bosses and the Tories who stand behind them.

Don’t let shoddy deal derail dispute

Train drivers in the Aslef union have voted by 79 percent to accept a controversial offer on Southern rail, ending an 18 month dispute.

The new offer will give them a 28.5 percent pay rise over five years and an agreement that trains can sometimes run without a second safety-trained staff member.

It says that this won’t happen “except in exceptional circumstances”. But bosses’ definition of “exceptional” includes such everyday circumstances as workers being ill or trains running late.

Aslef’s leadership recommended that workers accept the deal—and it’s not their first attempt to sell the dispute short. Workers rejected previous deals, but the union leadership called no action.

RMT called the offer “shoddy”. Accepting it undermines the action that RMT members are taking and is a victory for the bosses.

Aslef should have struck together with RMT members and fought for a guarantee that a second safety critical staff member would be on board at all times.

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