Wabtec picket line. Photo: Alistair Tice
Wabtec picket line. Photo: Alistair Tice

Alistair Tice, Yorkshire Socialist Party

Striking rail engineering workers at Wabtec in Doncaster felt their power in last week’s strike as nothing moved inside the site, apart from a few brushes sweeping up! On Thursday at a mass gate meeting, the Unite and RMT trade union members agreed to go on indefinite strike action from Friday 15 July to stop the company’s threat to fire and rehire workers on worse terms and conditions, and impose a well-below inflation pay rise.

The management claimed that when strike supporters stopped a train carriage from getting into the plant for three hours on 13 June, it cost them £40,000. So imagine how much they’ve lost in the last week’s strike, or will lose during an indefinite strike?

This makes many workers think that the real aim of the American-owned multi-national is to break the power of the trade unions. Because, despite big redundancies in recent years, the site remains extremely well-organised with Unite and RMT reps working together and coordinating action.

Over 170 of the approximately 250 shop floor workforce attended picket lines every day of the strike, with pickets at the main site entrance and on a station bridge. All have signed a petition statement saying that they signed the new contracts “under duress”, rubbishing management claims that 90% have accepted the new ‘Flex’ contracts. Hopefully, the resoluteness of the workers demonstrated during the strike will force the company to back down. But if not, the Wabtec strike will need the support of the trade union movement locally and nationally to defeat another fire and rehire scandal.

Wabtec workers read the Socialist. Photo: Alistair Tice