By Sam Ord
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Solidarity protests and rallies on third day of rail strikes

The rail strikes have become a focus for working class people's anger at the Tories and cost of living crisis—the RMT union leaders should call more action to win
Issue 2811
A crowd shot at the liverpool rail strikes solidarity rally

A huge show of solidarity for the rail strikes in Liverpool

Rail workers remained resolute on Saturday as they mounted picket lines across Britain in their third day of strikes over pay, jobs and safety. The RMT union members at Network Rail and 13 train operating companies already struck on Tuesday and Thursday in a decisive battle against the Tory government and bosses. 

In Carlisle, RMT regional organiser Craig told Socialist Worker, “The employers in conjunction with the Tory government have declared war on rail workers. The only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them and that’s what we’ve been forced to do.

This isn’t just about wages—although this week we’ve seen inflation hit 11.7 percent. It’s because the government has attacked our terms and conditions, demanding the loss of jobs and closure of all ticket offices in England potentially.”

He added the attacks also include “the loss of almost 3000 safety critical jobs, attacks on train caterers, pension schemes and work life balance”.

The rail strike has become a focus for many working class people’s anger at the Tories and the cost of living crisis. Greater Anglia worker Luca in east London told Socialist Worker, “I live with other people because I cannot afford to live alone. The rise in prices is noticeable everywhere. Shopping is so much more expensive and impactful on daily life. I also have to pay for my own travel card which has gone up about £10 or £20 pounds.”

Luca is frustrated that the media has lied about workers all earning £44,000 a year. His co-worker Maria explained, “We only get paid slightly above minimum wage and we’ve had a pay freeze since 2019.” Maria and other workers discussed how they worked throughout the Covid pandemic and made clear “it isn’t over”. “I was sick with Covid just last week,” she said. 

The workers were called inspirational and received muffins, coffee and lots of support from the public. Tube workers from Tottenham Hale station in north London gave their solidarity to the picket line outside the station on their breaks.

Maria said, “People support us because they understand the situation is not just about rail workers. My husband who’s a council worker has also had a pay freeze. The cost of living is affecting everyone and they see us as an inspiration—it’s a great feeling.”

Luca said the Network Rail boss gets paid over half a million pounds a year—yet he denies workers a pay rise.“There is plenty of money to pay us,” he said. “We do all the hard work.”

Big enthusiastic crowd with red RMT flags, GMB white, orange and black placards and many others

Enthusiasm for the strike on the London rally (Picture: Guy Smallman)

As pressure builds on the bosses and Tories, several solidarity rallies and marches were organised across Britain on Saturday. Hundreds marched through Glasgow, arriving at the RMT picket line chanting, “Victory to the RMT,” and, “The workers united will never be defeated.” 

The protest was supported by workers in the GMB, Unison, Unite hospitality and the EIS education unions. Firefighters drove a firetruck to the picket line cladded in FBU, trans and LGBT+ pride flags, while blaring its siren in solidarity.

Around 300 gathered in Liverpool, including Labour Party members and representatives of the local trades council. Nearly 200 people rallied in both Sheffield and Nottingham with support from the PCS union and local trade councils. And around 150, including health workers in Unison, joined the Manchester rally. One placard read, “Health workers support rail workers—pay us all.”

In Swansea in west Wales 70 people joined the rally that heard speeches from Stand Up To Racism, and Insulate Britain. Members from the CWU, PCS and Aslef unions all joined.  Around 100 people came to the rally in Newcastle, including Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP Ian Mearns.

And around 50 joined in Huddersfield, 50 in Wakefield, 60 in Norwich and 60 in Birmingham. UCU members turned out on the picket line in York. Extinction Rebellion activists joined the Liverpool Street station picket in the City of London, Carnforth in Lancashire and Leicester in the Midlands. NEU members in Leamington, Warwickshire, joined the picket line and donated £500 to the strike fund.

Rallies also took place in Ipswich, Bristol, Hastings, Cardiff, Gillingham, Brighton, Hatfield, London and Exeter. Maria said, “The action is over for now and I’m hoping it gets resolved. But we’ve had no breakthrough in negotiations. We don’t want to keep losing our wages, but they won’t guarantee no compulsory redundancies.”

The rail workers have relit class struggle—showing millions of workers that it is possible to take action against the Tories and bosses.  A win for the rail workers would give confidence to every working class person who is struggling to make ends meet to strike themselves. Workers should press home the advantage and not settle for “compromises” and poor, below inflation pay offers from the bosses. And the RMT union leadership should call more—and escalating—strikes. 

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