Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/240/24921
Rail Unions Plan More Strikes
A SENIOR rail union RMT rep spoke to The Socialist about their pay battle with Arriva Trains Northern. They were on strike on 5 and 6 February.
"WE'VE BEEN in talks with Arriva for days. We have seriously considered all sorts of concessions but Arriva haven't moved at all.
We can go to hell as far as they are concerned, so it looks like the dispute will be long and drawn-out.
I believe there's now a concerted attempt to take on the railway unions. Arriva were not prepared to negotiate on anything seriously and I believe that is because they've decided to take us on.
I'm hearing from other RMT reps that the same is starting to apply everywhere. I also sense the ugly hand of New Labour, through the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA). Arriva told us that any deals we struck would be subject to approval by the SRA and by implication, the government.
Unless Arriva could prove the deal was 'cost neutral' to them it wouldn't be approved. So their hands are tied by the SRA and the government.
Similarly, no one inside the industry has any faith in the Railway Inspectorate. These are the people who made continual blunders prior to the Paddington rail crash and are now allowing unskilled staff to become an army of strike-breakers.
We've asked the union executive for 22 more strike days between now and December. After this week's strikes the next one will be 31Ú2 weeks after that. My view is that strikes will spread across the whole network by stealth.
We're getting into the annual pay round in most companies. Pay in the industry is in a mess. People are doing the same job on vastly different pay. The whole thing is crumbling under a weight of dissatisfaction.
The government sees there might be action all over the network so they have decided to take on the unions. The rail unions have been involved in a political battle since before privatisation because the Tories made a right pig's dinner of privatisation.
The passengers have undoubtedly suffered because of that and now New Labour is using the passengers to beat the unions with.
Everyone is sick of the free market mania and unfairness. The public are supporting us because you very rarely see a worm turning in this country and I think our strikes have been inspirational for some people. They see that you don't have to put up with this shit.
Although we don't want to be in this position we're in high spirits. Everyone is in touch with each other and there's a great feeling of solidarity. We're pissed off but resolute."
A STRIKING Arriva guard told The Socialist on 5 February: "I'm married with three kids. I don't work my rest days and I'm on Working Families Tax Credit, so the government are admitting we are on a low wage."
The RMT have announced further strikes in their dispute with South West Trains.
A 24-hour strike will start at midday on Monday 11 February and another from midday on Wednesday 13 February.
In The Socialist 8 February 2002: