Train strikes brought large parts of the country to a standstill on 8 April. Train guards in the RMT union struck against driver-only operation (DOO) on Merseyrail which affected the Grand National horse race, on Northern Rail and again on Southern Rail, days before the franchise's boss doubled his pay.
Socialist Party members joined the picket lines. In Liverpool the strike was solid with reports of members of the drivers' union Aslef refusing to cross picket lines and RMT members unveiling a travelling billboard to explain the reasons for the strike to the public.
Pickets at Leeds train station told Socialist Party member Iain Dalton of the strong support from the public for their second strike against the implementation of DOO on the Northern Rail network. One commuter who had got a taxi rather than take a scab train came up to pickets to offer solidarity and take a leaflet.
Despite management attempts to paint this dispute as the RMT resisting 'modernisation', this is the same franchise that still has 'pacer' trains running that were meant to be temporary carriages back in the 1980s.
At another Northern Rail picket line in Newcastle, William Jarrett visited Central Station where morale was high, and passers-by were friendly to pickets. RMT official Richie Veitch said what he thought of Labour-controlled Newcastle, Gateshead, and Durham councils announcing their concerns about DOO. He rightly pointed out that they were the ones who voted for the government’s DOO plan in the first place!
Newcastle catering branch rep and guard John Lauder said: ‘‘This government’s too tied up with Brexit.’’ He’s right. The Tories are disunited and weak, suffering ‘mission creep’, and underestimated the resolve of RMT and rail users defying unsafe rail conditions. A contribution was made to the picket supervisor for the strike fund on behalf of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN).
The NSSN also visited the Southern Rail picket line at Victoria Station in London along with Socialist Party members working as bus drivers who brought solidarity from their work mates and union Unite.
The campaign against DOO will continue with a national protest called by the RMT at 12 noon on 26 April at Old Palace Yard, outside Westminster, before a rally at Westminster Central Hall.
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