Around 40,000 railway workers employed by Network Rail and 13 operators are building up to the biggest rail strike since privatisation. The RMT union members voted overwhelmingly to strike for jobs, pensions and safety. They will likely walk out in mid-June.
Dan, a Network Rail worker in the West Midlands, told Socialist Worker, “We want a pay rise in line with inflation and a guarantee of no redundancies or any detrimental changes to our working conditions. Specifically within Network Rail we want to see the plans for 2,500 safety critical maintenance job losses and dangerous maintenance schedule changes scrapped.”
Bosses fear that the strike will massively disrupt the supply and distribution of goods and many workers will be unable to make it into work. Dan is preparing for a backlash.
He said, “Other than energy no other industry has a larger impact on British capitalism than the transport industry. The railway with its natural monopoly is best placed to realise this power. We worked throughout the pandemic, keeping the railway going for absolutely nothing, we haven’t had a pay rise in over two years.”
“In the run up to the ballot we were sent a lot of company propaganda. I think this actually worked against the company, promoting the dispute in areas of low union activity. We saw through this propaganda as an act of desperation.”
Dan added, “There’s definitely an appetite for strikes at Network Rail. People are angry about the lack of a pay rise, the fact our colleagues could be losing their jobs and that the railway will be a less safe place. Morale at work is the lowest I’ve ever seen.”
Network Rail worker Andy from Barking in east London told Socialist Worker that the overwhelming ballot result will “send a clear message to the bosses”. “They’re robbing us,” he said. “Some of the people who have been working just four or five years have only experienced the pandemic and now the bosses want to rinse them.”
Andy said that his workmates at Network Rail are excited that others around the country are willing to stand up for themselves, and are motivated by the cost of living crisis. He added that “the more militant members are pushing for a long strike.”
He also hopes the strike will have an impact beyond Network Rail. “Inflation is only going to get worse. The Tories need to be shown action, not just words, that working class people are united against low wages,” he said. Dan added, “The RMT must call strikes immediately. It can’t just be a one off either, a whole programme of dates for the next six months need to be announced.
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