By Sam Ord
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Rail workers on track for more strikes

But it will take a shift from the union leaders’ failed strategy to derail the Tories’ and bosses’ attacks
Issue 2854
Pickets during an RMT strike

RMT union members on the picket line at Euston station in London in January (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Rail workers are gearing up for strikes on Friday and Saturday in their long-running fights over pay, jobs and conditions.

Aslef train drivers’ union members are set to strike at 16 train operating companies on Friday, with more walkouts planned on 31 May and 3 June. Some 20,000 RMT union members at 14 train companies plan to strike on the following day.

Train drivers rejected pay insults at the 16 companies (see below). One Southeastern train driver told Socialist Worker, “My colleagues are behind the strike and are willing to take the fight long term.

“The company is basically refusing to employ enough staff and it’s not just our company, it’s across the country. So many companies are just unable to run a basic service—that’s what the privatisation of railways has done.”

Rail bosses grab huge salaries in a system where private companies leach off public money. The leasing companies, which own the trains and carriages, creamed £3 billion from the railways in 2020-21 for nothing. And train tickets jumped at their highest rate—5.9 percent—in March.

But train drivers haven’t had a pay increase since 2019 despite inflation running at 13.5 percent.

Aslef and RMT should organise not to cross one another’s picket lines on Friday and Saturday. 

RMT members renewed their strike mandate last week with 91 percent voting to take action on a 69 percent turnout. It shows rail workers remain determined to win as they approach the one-year anniversary of their first strikes next month. But there now needs to be a reckoning with the RMT leaders’ failed strategy.

RMT members struck for 11 days across December and early January, but since then planned strikes scheduled for 30 March and 1 April were called off.

This was to allow the union leaders to consider offers from the government’s negotiating body, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

The strategy of short periods of action—punctuated with long gaps between strikes—has failed to break the Tory government and rail bosses. There should be no more calling off strikes for the death of monarchs, poppy days or inadequate offers that allow the bosses to regroup.

Instead, rank and- ile members should push for a programme of escalating action—including an indefinite strike. And activists have to make sure union leaders don’t push a below-inflation deal—like in Network Rail.  

Hard-hitting action that brings the network to a halt can force the Tories and bosses to back down swiftly.

  • Aslef: Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Great Western Railway; Greater Anglia; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; London North Eastern Railway; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway depot drivers; SWR Island Line; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.
  • RMT:  Avanti West Coast, C2C, Chiltern Railway, Cross Country, East Midlands Railway, GTR, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, LNER, Northern Trains, SE Trains, South Western Railway, Transpennine Express, West Midlands Trains. 

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