Striking RMT and Unite Coventry bin workers side by side. Photo: Len Shail
Striking RMT and Unite Coventry bin workers side by side. Photo: Len Shail

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network chair

The last week or so has been a game changer as far as the trade union movement is concerned. Up to 100,000 of us marched through the streets of London on 18 June on the Trades Union Congress (TUC) demo. And last week, 50,000 RMT members shut down the national rail network and London Underground, where they were joined by 1,000 Unite members.

It was a vivid demonstration of the power of workers and, as we have seen during Covid, confirmation that we are the key force in society. From being constantly told that unions are too weak, the right-wing media are rabidly demanding that anti-union laws are beefed up further, and the Tories are threatening to introduce measures against strike action.

I was proud to stand with the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) banner on the RMT picket lines and the solidarity protest outside Kings Cross, with thousands of other workers. This included outsourced, low-paid striking GMB members from St George’s Hospital in Tooting, demanding to be brought back into the NHS.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward brought solidarity greetings as his union ballots for national action in British Telecom and Royal Mail, while its members are striking in the Post Office.

This is part of a strike wave that has developed and grown out of the pandemic – firstly against bosses’ attacks such as ‘fire and rehire’, and now for an inflation-proof pay rise to keep workers’ heads above water during this cost of living crisis. It’s why there is particular support for the rail strike: we, the working class, really are all in this together.

When workers look at this crisis-ridden Tory government, they know they can be defeated. But the most sure way to do that is to bring together workers across private and public sectors in a joint fight on pay and jobs.

It is absolutely essential that, as well as supporting each other’s disputes, all the unions urgently meet together to coordinate industrial action ballots to build the widest possible action.

The NSSN was initiated by the RMT in 2006 under its late, great general secretary Bob Crow. We continue to build solidarity and support for unions and their members taking action. 2 July will be the 15th national NSSN conference. 

This year, we have leaders from some of the key unions on our platform.

More than ever before, this year’s NSSN conference is a vital forum for union members and reps to come together to talk about their struggles, and discuss the strategy, tactics and programme needed for the fight of our lives. Strike together!