‘The RMT are militant.’ It’s the refrain we keep hearing this week.
Ironically it comes from the same government ministers who have been telling falsehoods for months about the parties at Number 10 – and the contracts where they have given millions to their mates.
This is the biggest rail strike in 30 years, and it’s driven by RMT Union members voting by almost 9-1 to oppose stagnating pay and job losses.
There is only one party to blame in this dispute and that is the Tory Government.
I would like readers to ask themselves this: would you accept a real-terms cut in wages, the stripping of your terms and conditions, extended hours or maybe your job being cut altogether?
If the answer is no, then it might help you to understand why RMT workers are striking this week.
RMT are fighting for people, not profits.
The government’s priority is to ensure that shareholders get plenty of money while workers are relying on foodbanks to survive.
It is time the tables were turned.
We must be clear it is the government who are responsible after underfunding our transport network for so long.
The government controls the employer’s negotiating position in this crisis and it is them who set the funding levels, so they have the power to end this dispute immediately.
So you have to ask why they do not have the same enthusiasm for curbing obscene profits as they do for attacking workers.
The wealthy have increased their wealth while the poor have got poorer.
A report of Unite’s Profiteering Commission showed that the average profit margin of FTSE 350 companies had gone up by over 70% since 2019.
All that is required is to protect these key workers’ wages against rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, rule out further redundancies and protect terms and conditions.
Yet the government is trying to avoid responsibility.
Reasonable demands have been rejected by unreasonable ministers, whose response has been nothing short of an insult to workers.
We must say no to poverty wages.
Nobody ever wants to strike, those who do it certainly don’t look forward to it. Let’s remember it’s a big sacrifice to go on strike – you lose money, and you lose your valuable time.
When I was a trade union official, I never wanted to call for a strike; it was the very last tool in my arsenal, the final option once all others were exhausted.
Because ultimately, no one wants to see strikes happen.
But the reality is, sometimes striking is necessary if things are going wrong and need to be put right.
If those in charge are not listening to the concerns of workers and there is no meaningful negotiation around the table.
Every strike is disruptive. The fact that they are disruptive is a fundamental reason why they work.
Under the Conservatives we have seen 19,000 rail services axed, fares skyrocketing, and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being handed to private operators who have failed time and time again to run a good service.
Network Rail, which is owned by the government, is expected to cut 2,500 maintenance staff. This is not fair, safe or efficient – it will only result in more misery for passengers. This is why they are striking.
It’s about time we prioritised the rail staff who keep our essential services running, and if there are cuts to be made, let them be to shareholder dividends and executive bonuses, not to workers’ jobs and pay.
If you needed any further evidence of this government manufacturing this crisis, Grant Shapps has refused to negotiate with the RMT.
Shapps has announced plans to change the law to allow striking workers to be replaced temporarily by agency staff, likely to be in force by July.
It’s disgraceful, unworkable and dangerous.
The government who are responsible after underfunding our transport network for so long (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)
I will always defend the right to strike.
Trade unions helped win so many rights that we all now rely on – the right for a weekend, paid holidays, the minimum wage, maternity and paternity rights, pension provision and so much more.
That is why, every chance I get, I always encourage everyone to join a union – my message is: don’t let the government turn you against those who actually protect you.
This week the Tories will try to divide us but, despite the disruption, we should all celebrate the push for fair pay and conditions.
Because they might be coming for rail staff now, but on another day, they might come for you. This is why I always say: without your rights, I can’t have my rights.
We must continue to stand up for the fundamental right to take industrial action, even when we don’t want them to happen.
I want the Labour Party to be bolder, stronger and braver in doing just that.
Solidarity to the RMT workers fighting for fair jobs and fair pay this week.
If you ask me to choose a side, I’ll choose the workers every time.