Today – Tuesday 21 June – rail workers in the RMT union across all grades are taking their first day of national strike action – with two more days to follow – saying no to threatened job losses, attacks on pensions, on wages, on terms and conditions; and for the safety of the railways. Solidarity with the RMT!
The impact of the national rail action is strengthened by the London tube workers also striking today – and vice versa for the tube workers.
Socialist Party members are out supporting the picket lines, and are helping to build support for the strikes in workplaces and communities across the country.
This is an historic national strike – a lead being given by members of the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) which other workers throughout the country will support and will need to follow the example of, as all are suffering attacks on living standards!
Bernard Davies visited the York station picket line: A rail worker at York emphasised that the strike is not just about pay, and said: “The last four major train accidents can be attributed to cost-cutting measures and cost cutting is not just about pounds and pence but about lives!”
Roger Thomas reports from Bristol Temple Meads: It is a lively picket with huge public support from passing motorists and commuters on their way to work. Pickets reported that the rail network in the South West is virtually at a standstill. Delegations from other unions joined the pickets throughout the morning bringing cakes and biscuits and most importantly solidarity.
Michael Whale reports from Hull: There was a confident mood at Hull Paragon with about 25 RMT members and Trades Council supporters. The station was closed effectively so the picket was for publicity mainly and judging by the tooting horns of passing traffic there is strong wider support for the strike. One passer-by who had come into town via the bus station summed up what a lot of people are saying: “Thank God someone is standing up for us against the government”. Labour’s position was shot to pieces by RMT members. One of them, who had loyally stayed with Labour beyond the Corbyn era, stated that he wanted to have a discussion about TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition). What he said about Labour could not be printed! We will be back to support the strike on Thursday; and on Saturday the Trades Council will hold a rally in the morning at 10.00 when there should be more people around.
Steve Score reports: Socialist Party members went to offer solidarity to RMT pickets at Leicester railway station. The strikers were also joined by many others offering support, including from the local Trades Union Council, Leicester UCU, the bakers’ union, Unison, Unite, NEU and climate strike protesters.
One RMT picket, Peter Sawbridge told us: “It’s the hypocrisy of the government. They are saying they bailed out the railways during Covid, but how come £500 million of that went to shareholders? How come the directors were getting massive bonuses? The MPs gave themselves a 6% pay rise, but the government says we can only have 3% unless we accept attacks on our terms and conditions. They are the things that give us quality of life. Yes, let’s modernise, but let’s do it properly round the table with the trade unions’ agreement. An example of what the management want to do is get rid of guards on the trains. We don’t just check tickets. Our job is to make sure people can get on and off safely. If someone is in a wheelchair for example, we may phone on ahead to make sure someone is there ready to help them off at the other end. They also want to tear up our pensions. This is all why I am here today.”
Steve Nally spoke with strikers on the Waterloo picket line: Daria said” ‘I would love to sit around a table and explain to those at the top how hard it is to manage a family budget with less money. Every time I go shopping pasta has gone up in price. And that’s just the ‘own brand’ one”. Ilia added: “We have no choice but to strike”. Stepan said: “We’re in it for the long haul”.
Socialist Party members report: There was a good mood at Euston. Signallers, platform staff, engineers, train catering workers and more, all together on the picket. When asked if he was feeling confident, one striker replied, “Yeah, why not?” The RMT has shut the whole rail network today. Pickets everywhere we visited this morning were eager for other sections of workers to strike too. The whole working class needs action like this and the RMT is leading the way.
Jane Ward reports from Salisbury: A striking Network Rail signal engineer said: “We are facing huge redundancies. Lowest grade staff will have changes to their job description which means that their pay will be cut and their terms and conditions will be adversely affected. In effect this is fire and rehire.” A train guard said: “They can’t call rail staff heroes and then call them selfish. Rail workers tend to stay in their jobs for the long term. They work unsocial hours which affects their family life and can have repercussions on their health. Lots of dedicated staff are being discarded as rubbish.” Another guard said: “The management are trying to close ticket offices which will impact people without access to smart phones or computers. They are going to review the passenger assistance service which means disabled people will find it more difficult to use the trains. The existing service often leaves train staff without adequate information regarding passengers who need assistance. The trains frequently have malfunctioning PA systems, no trolley service and no phone charging plugs. If your ticket is on your phone and you run out of charge then you are regarded as having no ticket.”
Eric Segal reported from Dover: Around 40 resolute pickets were on duty at the two picket lines at Dover Priory station. The pickets from Network Rail made sure that they could be seen from the road as streams of cars carrying people to work or kids to school hooted support in support of the strike. The pickets from South Eastern railways, some of whom had been on duty from 03.30, were catching up with workmates with hot coffee and croissants. The pickets were joined by workers from Unite, GMB and RMT Maritime sacked P&O workers.
One of the younger workers on his first picket said “we need a general strike” and there was agreement that the strikes taking place need to be coordinated.
Alistair Tice reports from Sheffield: At the Sheffield station picket RMT members were joined by other trade unionists and socialists, including eight Socialist Party members, a total of around 25 people. Plenty of cakes but “no flim-flam” said Neil the RMT branch chair, meaning that they are up for the fight. Branch secretary Martin Cook, who is speaking at the Sheffield Socialist Party public meeting on Thursday, proudly displayed the branch’s new RMT banner featuring a Bob Crow quote on the front and ‘Solidarity with Orgreave’ on the back. Interestingly, a self-declared ‘non-political’ striker said he hoped the strike would bring down the Tory government! I was told that only two ‘perennial scabs’ had gone into work. Otherwise the station was deserted, save for groups of managers trying to look busy.
Neil Adams visited the Reading picket line: We spoke with the pickets about the need to unite the action with other unions and everyone agreed this is needed. We distributed NSSN conference leaflets and invited the pickets to our Socialist Party public meeting tonight. There was enthusiasm for our ideas.
Jim Horton (2nd from left in above photo) reported from East Finchley: At East Finchley the majority of the workers are in Aslef, about one third in RMT. Some Alsef members crossed the picket, allowing management to claim a partial service is running on the Northern line. The reality is that a few trains are running north from East Finchley, and none into the City – therefore it’s an effective shutdown! There’s a good mood on the picket line and great discussions. A visceral hatred of the Tories and Keir Starmer; and openness to the idea of a new workers’ party.
James Ellis reported from Hastings: One of the first things an RMT member said to me was: “We need a general strike if we’re really going to make a difference”. A lot of workers on the picket talked about the need to coordinate action. All agreed that the best way to make a difference would be if teachers, NHS workers, etc, all balloted for action too. The strike was solid and the picket was cheerful and well attended. The mood amongst the RMT members has been good and the reaction from the public has also been generally positive. A few members were telling me that the public seem to be particularly supportive in this dispute – more so than usual. This probably is due to recognition that we’re all being affected at the moment by the cost of living crisis and the actions of the government. Some concern was raised around safety – both during the strike if agency workers are used, and in general if the proposed changes to services are made, eg the loss of ticket offices and reduction in safety checks.
Helen Pattison reports: At Paddington pickets were discussing how they were on strike nearly exactly seven years ago and how they won to keep the guards on the train. This is a whole new battle they are going to fight just as hard. They complained about the lack of support from Starmer’s Labour – and that no MPs would be supporting them. It was clear they were receiving support from passers by. Many stopped to complain about the Tories.
Iain Dalton reports from Leeds: There were 20 pickets at the Network Rail depot in Leeds. Lots of support from vans and lorries passing the site. One driver stopped to apologise for his horn not being loud enough!
Oisin Duncan also reports from Leeds: The picket outside Leeds station was 40 or so strong at about 7:30am, with most there from 6am. The mood around the strike was absolutely solid, with pickets explaining to those workers going past on their way to work that pay is only one issue motivating their action. A number of rail depots also saw picket lines set up, not only in the morning but before tonight’s shift. Socialist Party members were well received and the strike bulletin from our transport worker caucus – the Red Line – was readily accepted by strikers and the general public. Full solidarity with the rail strike!
Doncaster station picket: There were around 15 pickets, nearly all guards on Northern Trains, veterans of the ‘Keep the Guards on the Train’ dispute of four years ago. Asked about public support, one picket said that on her last shift she’d had lots of fist pumps from passengers in support, and most of the public passing the picket line were supportive as well.
Theo Shariff (end right in above photo) reports: Brixton picket line was strong with a real confidence that by standing together RMT members can force TfL management back on their proposed attacks. ASLEF members also turned out to offer solidarity.
Ferdinand Lyons reports: The strike at the Stratford engineering depot is fairly strong with just a few managers and non-RMT members crossing the picket. Picketers are listening into Sky news and getting frustrated by the endless reports on how the strike is just a ‘political strike’ and at Grant Shapps saying he’s not got any power in the negotiations as it’s up to the employers.
James Ivens (on left in above photo) reports: Fleet and engineering pickets at Northumberland Park depot are well organised and have shut down the workplace. Service controllers in particular have a lot of power and their absence alone closes the line. Johnson’s threat to bring in agency workers to break the strike was one topic of conversation. Pickets aren’t worried at this depot. They told us their work is too specialised – service controllers especially – for agencies to supply. One striker told us there’s so much wrong that the country needs a general strike. We agree! That could even bring down this weak Tory government. But who would replace it? – We then all discussed the legacies of Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn. How can the unions regain a political voice? Some knew Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates, and all agreed with the idea of the unions holding a political conference to start something new.
Clive Walder and Bill Murray report: “The government are provoking this dispute to take our minds off of all their fuck ups” said one of the 30 or so pickets at Tyseley maintenance depot in east Birmingham. No one crossed the picket line and many of those spoken with were predicting a long, hard battle, but they are up for it. One worker explained the detrimental effect that the bosses’ proposals would have on his pension and said that he couldn’t afford not to strike. Many passing motorists tooted their horns in support and pickets reported that they had received good support from Royal Mail workers in the CWU who may be in dispute themselves shortly. None of the workers we spoke with believe that Starmer’s Labour Party is a viable alternative for workers and believe that Labour is now too close to the employers, so the idea of a new workers’ party was warmly received, as was the RMT’s participation in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). The Socialist Party bulletin was well received and two copies of the Socialist were bought.
Strikers at Morden told Socialist Party member Adam Powell-Davies: “Things are moving in the right direction. We need the rest of the working class to get out on strike”.
Socialist Party Scotland members visited RMT pickets across Scotland. In Aberdeen Lucas Grant reported that there was lots of support from workers and drivers passing by. In Glasgow there was a strong turnout at Cowlairs West Scotland Signalling Centre and maintenance depot plus a lot of trade union solidarity, including support from Glasgow City Unison at Glasgow Central station.
- Fight the cost-of-living crisis
- Organise to strike together
- Kick out the Tories
- Fight for a new mass workers’ party
- For a fully funded, integrated, publicly owned, democratically controlled transport network