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Fighting South West Rail bosses and anti-union laws

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Issue 2686
STRIKERS and supporters at Waterloo
STRIKERS and supporters at Waterloo (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Rail workers on South Western Railway (SWR) ended a 27-day strike in December with a vow to battle Boris Johnson’s attacks on their right to strike.

Hundreds of RMT union members on SWR have fought for over two years to guarantee the safety-critical guard on board all services.

After years of strikes and rounds of negotiations, the firm is holding out on a final agreement.

SWR bosses want drivers to control the train doors. But RMT members say that plan would create an unsafe ­environment for passengers.

A solidarity picket on 23 December at London’s Waterloo station saw support from tube workers, other union activists and the Day-Mer Turkish and Kurdish organisation.

Tory anti-trade union laws mean the strikers are ­re?balloting this month as their current ballot is due to expire. They expect to strike again after the ballot is completed.

Their fightback comes as Johnson announced plans to further attack the right to strike—and is specifically ­targeting rail workers.

It wants rail workers to provide “minimum service agreements” during walkouts.


The agreements would set out a minimum service pattern and level of staffing during strikes. And the Tory government is threatening injunctions or fines against unions that don’t agree a minimum service agreement.

Announced in the queen’s speech on 19 December, the government claims the new anti-strike law is to “ensure the public is not disproportionately affected by strike action.”

But Johnson’s attacks aren’t rooted in a desire to improve the railways.

The Tories hope they can tame one of the most militant section of workers.

Trade unionists are already preparing to resist the attacks. Over 100 RMT union members and others joined a protest outside parliament shortly after the announcement was made.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “This government is attacking us all, and we’re going to fight. They laid down the gauntlet, and we’re picking it up.”

It was good to hear a strong message from union leaders and several Labour MPs urging resistance.

But there were similar speeches at similar events against the government’s new anti-union laws in 2016.

That campaign was a dismal failure. This time it has to be different.

Victory requires confrontation, standing up to the threat of seizure of union funds and concentration on the streets and workplaces, not parliament.

New research by the RMT union has revealed how privatised rail bosses are “laughing all the way to the bank”.

Privatised rail companies have handed out £4.4 billion in dividends to shareholders in the last ten years.


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