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Over 40,000 rail workers vote to strike again

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RMT union members successfully campaigned for a new strike mandate—now escalate to push back the Tories
Issue 2832
Rail workers part of the RMT strike are holding large red RMT union flags with support from NEU and other trade unionists on the picket line

Rail workers began their revolt over pay in July (Picture: Guy Smallman)

“We’re still up for a fight”—that’s the rallying call from Network Rail worker Dan who, along with over 40,000 other RMT union members, has voted to strike again. Union leaders should use the renewed mandate to escalate the strikes.  

Workers at all 14 train operating companies voted by 84 to 97 percent for strikes, with turnouts between 58 and 80 percent. Infrastructure company Network Rail, the largest employer involved, saw a 91 percent yes vote on a 70 percent turnout.

“It’s a great result,” said Dan. “It proves to the Tories and companies that they can’t ride this out—we’re still up for it.”

The Tory anti-union laws impose a new ballot every six months and a 50 percent turnout threshold. If workers who usually provide “important public services” are balloted, at least 40 percent of those eligible to vote must vote yes.

RMT members smashed through the thresholds, showing they are determined to keep fighting.

Dan added that RMT members and leaders should learn from the last six months. “Everyone I know wants a lot more strikes to be called,” he said. “That was the downside to the last six months—not enough was done.

“We need to get it done as soon as possible, and that will take an all-out strike. Yes, it’s difficult for low-waged staff, but an on and off, stop and start strike isn’t serious enough.”

Many activists have started collecting for a strike fund to help those lowest paid workers through strike days.

Dan says this will be vital for a large escalation. He also believes that the RMT must remain determined, not calling off strikes at the last minute as it did over the queen’s death and London Poppy Day. “The RMT needs to take into account what members think when the last strike was called off,” he said.

“It seems like it wasn’t a reps’ or members’ decision, it was a decision from the top. There have to be things put in place such as more votes at meetings.” He added that “coordination between all unions” was key to winning.

Over half a million workers have now voted for strikes over pay. On Thursday of next week, 115,000 CWU union members at Royal Mail and 70,000 UCU university union members plan to begin two days of strikes. Around 50,000 EIS Scottish teachers’ union members are set to join them on the first day.

On 26 November, 9,500 Aslef train drivers’ union members at 12 companies plan to walk out. Ambulance workers in Scotland in the GMB union are set to strike on 28 November.

And then on 30 November UCU and CWU members plan to begin two days of strikes—and are set to be joined by 4,000 NEU union members at sixth form colleges.

If the RMT leadership announced strikes on Wednesday, rail workers could strike alongside them. Under the anti-union laws, unions have to give bosses two weeks’ notice.

Escalating—and coordinating—the strikes can push back the Tories’ and bosses’ attacks. And with inflation soaring at 14.2 percent, workers should strike to win and not accept any below-inflation offers. 

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