Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/566/6889
Tyneside Metro: Workers' action to stop privatisation
TO A packed meeting of over 150 people last week, the RMT's general secretary Bob Crow announced that Tyneside Metro workers are to be balloted for strike action over the threat to jobs, pensions and conditions posed by privatisation plans. The strike call was met with great enthusiasm.
Across Tyne and Wear people are outraged at the prospect of Metro privatisation. They understand that the privateers' main concern will be to put money into the pockets of shareholders and this will inevitably lead to increased fares, with safety issues becoming a secondary consideration.
Bob Crow passionately outlined how the RMT is preparing to fight to ensure Metro workers' terms and conditions remain, including for new starters. He correctly pointed out that if a two-tier system with worse conditions for new starters happens, it would inevitably lead to "jealousy and bitterness". He also pointed out the RMT would be demanding that the Metro workers pension scheme is safeguarded.
In making these demands Bob Crow acknowledged that: "Some say we're going for the sky: I say we're going for the minimum."
At the meeting Bob Crow commented that the economic downturn, when many workers are fearful of losing their jobs, may not be the ideal time to ballot for industrial action. However, he was applauded when he said there is "one thing more contagious than fear - courage!"
Unfortunately, in stark contrast to the RMT leadership - who gave confidence to their members that this is a battle that could be won - invited Unison leaders (who also represent Metro workers) did not even turn up for the meeting. After the meeting we spoke to Unison members who work on the Metro and they were clearly bitterly disappointed by this.
Amongst a growing number of Metro workers, activists in the Keep the Metro Public campaign and the travelling public there is growing anger at the role of New Labour which has been instrumental in pushing these plans forward. Bob Crow put forward that elected representatives who are not listening to the views of ordinary workers should be held accountable and challenged, saying: "MPs and councillors - we'll have to put people up [against them] in some shape or form."
The short-listed privateers are: Hong Kong's MTR Corporation; Germany's DB Regio; Dutch-based Serco-Ned Railways; alongside an in-house bid.
These companies cannot be trusted as they will put their own interests before those of the people of Tyne and Wear and the Metro workforce. All three would be inferior to the present publicly owned Metro, which has won awards for being Britain's most punctual railway. The Metro is also Britain's last publicly owned railway.
Our Socialist Party leaflet was well received, with some workers asking for extra copies to distribute at work.
It called for:
- Continued public ownership and operation of the Metro system.
- Massive extension of the Metro.
- An integrated, publicly owned transport system - run for the benefit of local people.
- For fighting trade unions to defend the interests of Metro workers.
- For a new mass workers' party to challenge the privateers and New Labour.
Keep Metro Public campaign email email@example.com or phone 0191 456 1308.
In The Socialist 11 February 2009:
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review