Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/239/24928
Workers facing low pay, privatisation, poor safety, bosses' attacks, say...
'We're Fighting Back'
THOUSANDS OF workers have been on strike over the last few days to defend working conditions and to fight for a living wage. These strikes have been in spite of determined strike-breaking tactics by intransigent management and in the case of the rail union RMT, personalised attacks on the strike leaders.
BOB CROW, assistant general secretary of the RMT and left candidate for general secretary and GREG TUCKER, RMT activist on South West Trains (SWT) spoke to Socialist Party industrial organiser Bill Mullins.
"The strike is because SWT drivers were given a 7.65% pay increase which lasted for 18 months", said BOB CROW. He continued: "We say 'good luck to them'. What we're asking for is some fairness for our members.
"We have train driver members as well so it's not a fight between the drivers and us. The drivers' union ASLEF fully supports us and told their drivers not to work in any unsafe circumstances today, that is with these managers who are putting the travelling public in danger.
"What management are telling the guards, the booking office and station staff is that they are not essential workers and that's the reason they don't get as much. Well if they're non-essential, how come there's not many trains running?
"Our members have voted by 73% in favour of taking action and we're standing by our members.
"I wouldn't put it past SWT boss Brian Souter to try to sack the strikers. I imagine it's gone through management's mind on a number of occasions. What we should be saying to the TUC is that they should be mobilising the rest of the trade union movement in support of these workers but also any other group of workers facing union busters.
"The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is backing up the bosses by lifting all penalties on SWT for late trains. The SRA should keep their nose out of this dispute and help resolve the issue, not back the bosses.
"People should be supporting the strikes at SWT, Arriva, and the other workers who don't get the same kind of media attention as us. The TUC should be mobilising the entire trade union movement to support any groups of workers in struggle."
GREG TUCKER, the SWT driver whose victimisation is also the reason for the strikes, told The Socialist.
"It's our fifth day of strike action and it's been solid. The company's trying to break the strike by employing managers to do the guards' and platform staff duties, which we think is pretty unsafe .
"There are seven or eight of us being victimised and it's obvious that the company want to smash the union. Even if it's possible for the company to settle on pay, they have to address the other issues as well.
"Souter can't sack train staff as easily as he does on the buses. He could only do it with the complicity of the government. They could only bring in scabs if the government lets them. You would be asking what the SRA and the railway inspectorate are doing if that happened.
"We should extend this dispute across the country. We have touched a nerve, a lot of other rail workers are unhappy about their pay as well. We have been inundated with members saying 'when are we going to get our ballot?'.
"The national union should take the threat to break us seriously and prepare to call out the rest of the membership nationwide.
In The Socialist 1 February 2002: