The Socialist 19 September 2012
We can beat Con-Dems' austerity
NSSN supporter invited to address RMT
Building solidarity across the trade unions
On 14 September I turned up at a meeting of the transport union RMT in Plymouth, hoping to give out a few leaflets for the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN). I was called up to the platform to speak next to RMT general secretary Bob Crow.
I am not even a member of the RMT so it was a bit of a surprise! But it showed the shared respect between the RMT and NSSN.
Between 80 to 100 people, mainly RMT members turned up to hear Bob speak and give out awards for lifetime service to the union. The atmosphere was brilliant.
Trade union members spoke about support for the 20 October demo and attacks on workers in the health and transport sectors.
I was introduced as a member of the teaching union NASUWT and the NSSN. I began saying how Virgin had just taken over Devon Children's Service, so we might end up working for the same employer one day.
I reported on the NSSN lobby of the TUC to call for a 24-hour general strike and how the NSSN was helping trade unionists to coordinate strike action, expressing my hope that if the RMT had to strike over the McNulty attack on the railways then perhaps it could be alongside teachers, health service workers and others already balloting.
Of course it was Bob Crow everyone wanted to hear. He addressed the issues facing South Western railway workers first. The McNulty report commissioned by New Labour cost £217,000 - but McNulty already knew what was wanted so he started off by writing the findings!
Bob warned what the proposals meant - no guards, no catering services, closures of branch lines, fare increases for commuter services and the issue of zero hour contracts for maintenance workers - who he said were being treated like "donkey jackets hanging on the back of a door".
But he also spoke powerfully about pensions and youth unemployment, making clear connections about workers being made to work longer at the expense of opportunities for the new generation. Speaking about students he asked: "Where are they going to live after they pile up £48,000 of debt? I'll tell you...with you!"
Lib Dem Vince Cable and Labour's Ed Balls came under the hammer too: Cable for supporting new attacks on employment rights and Balls for refusing to take the chance of promising to repeal Tory anti-trade union legislation at the TUC. "Why doesn't the Labour Party promise to re-nationalise the railways?" he asked - it could be done for free when the franchises expired?
He said there were about 25 Labour MPs doing a great job - but what about the rest of them? He compared funding Labour to "paying someone to mug you" and ended up by warning that perhaps it was time to build a new workers' party.
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Socialist Party women
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