United protests and actions on October 1

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Saturday 1 October is set to be a major day of united strikes by over 170,000 workers. Rail workers, workers at Royal Mail and dock workers at Felixstowe will all strike. The media has dubbed the day of action a ‘perfect storm’.

On Friday the RMT emailed its 40,000 members on Network Rail and 14 train operating companies about a new strike date of 1 October. General secretary Mick Lynch added: “Due to the period of national mourning, the RMT will be making no press or public statements regarding the action.” The union may announce another day, probably 5 October, later.

The Aslef union, although it has also made no public statement, is also calling for more strikes by around 9,000 drivers at 12 companies. The managing director of rail operator LNER, David Horne, tweeted that the union had notified it of strikes on 1 October and 5 October.

The TSSA rail union has also called strikes for 1 October.

Over 115,000 Royal Mail workers in the CWU union were already set to strike on 1 October. And there are also scheduled strikes by more than 560 dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool, and 1,900 workers at the port of Felixstowe that cover that day. Together they move 60 percent of Britain’s container traffic.

The Liverpool strike is from Monday until 3 October and the Felixstowe one is from 27 September to 5 October. Unity is a big step forward. Pressure from below has helped to push the union leaders to call strikes on the same day.

On 1 October the Enough is Enough campaign needs to mobilise the 600,000 people who have signed up to its campaign. It calls for real pay rises, taxing the rich, an end to food poverty, decent homes for all and slashed energy bills.

It has now announced protests for 1 October in 13 cities — London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Norwich and Bristol. These can unite the picket lines and wider groups. Everyone should build them.

Don’t Pay UK have also called protests on the day.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented:

The value of wages, having been stagnant for 12 years, is now falling. Offers of wage increases which are less than the rate of inflation is, in effect, wage cuts. That’s the stark reality for workers and that’s the main reason for strikes and protests. You can’t take money from people’s pockets without them getting angry.

“The other factor is that after a decade of austerity, people have had enough. They’ve seen public services privatised and being run for profit, not for need or the public good . That’s why the Labour Party’s pledge under Corbyn to renationalise the railways and water companies, as well as bring energy back into public ownership, was so popular.”

It’s good to see unions striking on the same day and that protests are being organised by Enough is Enough. If workers are to protect their living standards, then this action must spread and escalate. Workers must not be made to pay for bad government decisions and policy.  We need to see more days of action, and co-ordinated action, until we get a decent pay rise for all.”

Harrington continued:

“There is a lot of anger out there. And it needs to be harnessed in a constructive way so that workers get the pay rise that they deserve. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to get involved in the protests on 1 October, and to support the strikers.”

Unions cancel strikes as a mark of respect to the late Queen

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Postal and rail strikes were canceled in an announcement last Thursday after the death of the Queen.

Planned strikes by Royal Mail workers on Friday were called off following the Queen’s death. Members of the Communication Workers Union were due to continue a 48-hour walkout in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Rail strikes that were being prepared for September have been canceled. Train drivers union Aslef had set a strike date for Thursday, September 15. The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) had planned a walkout on Monday, September 26.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has postponed its annual conference that was due to be held in Brighton from Sunday for four days.

The cancellation of the rail and postal strikes can only be a temporary mark of respect. The issues which underly them remain unresolved. The unions would have faced much criticism if they had continued with their plans. The leaders of the unions involved have made a difficult but likely wise decision. The Morning Star was right to point out, however: 

“Nobody will say that the Queen’s death means company bosses should drop their vicious attacks on workers’ rights as a gesture of respect.

Newspaper pundits won’t ask how the Tories have the effrontery to wage class war at such a time.

That’s never the narrative: it is workers who cause disruption by fighting back when attacked, never bosses who cause it by picking our pockets.

That this is exactly what bosses are doing has been demonstrated in detail in reports like Unite Investigates’ Corporate Profiteering and the Cost-of-Living Crisis.”

Bakers’ union BFAWU general secretary Sarah Woolley said: “The decision to postpone TUC Congress is completely understandable after the news of the Queen dying on Thursday.

“[But] the cost-of-living crisis, though, hasn’t and will not go away — and we have a lot of work to do over the coming months as a movement to support working people through it.

“When the TUC does meet, we will have a clearer idea of the political landscape with [Liz] Truss as Prime Minister and this will inform our strategy.”

Support the rail strikes: here’s how

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Several rail trade unions are planning walkouts in protest at unfair below-inflation pay offers (effectively pay cuts).

The strikes will involve members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, as well as the Aslef and TSSA unions.

Alef says members will walk out at 12 train operating firms on Thursday, September 15 and the RMT is also striking that day. Affected operators will be Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, and Great Western Others will be Hull, LNER, London Overground, Northern, Southeastern, TransPennine, and West Midlands.

RMT is also striking on Saturday, 17 September 2022.

TSSA members at nine train operators and Network Rail will walk out from midday on Monday, September 26. Avanti West Coast, c2c, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, and Great Western Railway will all be affected. Also hit by the TSSA action will be LNER, Southeastern, TransPennine Express, and West Midlands Trains

This marks the fourth month of action on the railways. There is little sign of an agreement being reached anytime soon. It comes at a time when unions across many sectors are stepping up to defend their member’s pay and conditions. Some union leaders have called for coordinated strikes alongside union and community-led campaigning. Solidarity is among the unions that supported those calls.

We need to defend our jobs, pay, conditions, and pensions from the government’s attacks. This is an important battle that we need to win if we want to protect our living standards.

This fight is important because it can help us find a better way to live. This will involve having less money going to the people who have a lot of money, and more money going to the people who have less money. You can show your support by:

Donating to the RMT’s national strike fund. This can be done by individuals, groups, or organisations. https://www.rmt.org.uk/about/national-dispute-fund/

Attending picketing of major stations. It’s important that different striking groups get to know each other and for pickets to be well attended and peaceful.

Reading about the facts of the strike from the RMT, Solidarity, and other unions and sharing their information – there’s a lot of deliberate confusion being sown by the government and many media outlets.

It goes without saying but never cross a picket line!

TRAIN DRIVERS AT NINE COMPANIES GO ON STRIKE

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Train drivers at nine operating companies went on strike last week. Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef walked out for 24 hours in a pay dispute at Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern, West Midlands Trains, and London Overground. Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, said that train companies claim to be barred from awarding a pay rise in line with inflation by “dodgy deals” imposed by the government when their franchises were turned into management contracts, but the government says the dispute is nothing to do with it and must be dealt with by the companies.

The bosses say the decision now is down to the government and the government says it’s down to the operating companies.

“So we are caught in a Catch-22 situation where each side blames the other,” Mick explained.

“The drivers at these companies have not had an increase for three years. With inflation running at 9, 10, or even 11 percent, we are being told to take a real-terms pay cut. Strike action is now the only option available, but we are always open for talks if the companies, or government, want to come to the table.”

The strike has the potential to escalate with strike ballots closing at Chiltern Railways, Northern Trains, and TransPennine Express on 25 August. Workers in sector after sector are taking strike action to defend their living standards. Union leaders must build the individual sets of strikes but also to come together and to lay the basis for greater action.

 Picture credit: Image by Tim Bigger from Pixabay

The Strikers are fighting for us all says Pat Harrington

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In the UK, workers are striking for a number of reasons. They’re fighting for better pay and working conditions, They are seeking higher wages in order to keep up with the rising cost of living. The average UK worker has seen their real wages fall by 10% since 2008, while the cost of living has risen by more than 20%. This means that workers are struggling to make ends meet and many are increasingly reliant on food banks and other forms of charity. The strikers are also calling for an end to zero-hours contracts, which leave workers unable to predict their income from one month to the next. These contracts can make it very difficult to budget and save for unexpected expenses. The strike action is unprecedented in recent years and is a sign of the growing frustration of workers who feel that they are being made to pay the cost of inept political leadership and economic management.

The prices of essentials like food and housing have been rising faster than wages for years, and people are struggling to make ends meet. The strikers believe that the only way to address the cost of living crisis is to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. By doing so, they hope to make life better for all those affected by the crisis.

Battle lines are being drawn

Unions are prepared to fight against real-term wage cuts for their members. There are some big battles on the way and everyone will have to decide which side they are on. For us it’s simple – we are on the side of the workers and against those who’ve caused the cost of living crisis and now expect ordinary people to pay for their mistakes. Here is a breakdown of some of the battles to come.

Rail workers

Around 50,000 rail workers in the RMT, Aslef, and TSSA unions are fighting over below-inflation pay offers, job cuts, and working conditions. RMT members are planning three 24-hour strikes on Wednesday 27 July, Wednesday 18 August, and Saturday 20 August. The union is also in dispute with Network Rail over plans to cut 1,500 jobs and close ticket offices. Aslef members are planning a 24-hour strike on Saturday 30 July. The union is in dispute with eight train operating companies over pay, rostering arrangements, and the introduction of driver-only operated trains. TSSA members are balloting for industrial action. The union is in dispute with Network Rail over pay and working conditions. All three unions are also in dispute with London Underground over the closure of ticket offices and the introduction of all-night Tube services. Industrial action is likely to cause widespread disruption to rail services across the country.

Posties and communication workers

Nearly all Royal Mail workers who voted supported going on strike in a huge 97.6 percent landslide, making it clear they are ready to battle their bosses. The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) members backed strikes by an overwhelming margin on a turnout of 77 percent in their fight against the imposition of a 2 percent pay increase by management. No strike days have been announced yet by the CWU. This follows other recent high-profile industrial disputes such as British Airways. Given the government’s attacks on workers’ rights, union membership has been growing recently as people look to emulate the success of French workers in fighting back against austerity. With such a massive show of support from CWU members, management at Royal Mail will be under pressure to start negotiating seriously or face the possibility of widespread disruption to mail services across the country.

Public service workers

PCS union members are demanding a 10 percent pay increase and a minimum wage of at least £15 an hour. The ballot is set to begin on 26 September and run for six weeks until 7 November. If the workers vote in favour of strike action, it could mean serious disruption for government departments across the UK. The union has already taken industrial action this year, with walkouts happening in May and June. Talks between the PCS and the government have so far failed to reach an agreement, with the union accusing the government of offering “derisory” pay rises. The workers are also angry about job losses and cuts to workplace benefits, such as pensions. With no end to the dispute in sight, it looks like we could see more industrial action from the PCS in the near future.

Teachers

Teachers across schools in England will be consulted on strikes in the autumn. The Tory government wants to impose a 5 percent increase on teachers after recommendations from the School Teachers’ Review Body. When? NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the union would consult members on strikes in the autumn with “the largest ballot of teachers for a generation”. Meanwhile, the NASUWT said its executive would meet on September 14 to consider ballots for action. What’s the problem? Teachers say they have faced a real-terms pay cut since 2010 and that their pay has fallen behind other graduate professions. They also argue that increased workload and mounting pressure are making the profession unsustainable. The government says it has increased funding for schools and that teachers’ pay is a matter for individual headteachers. However, headteachers say they are being forced to make cuts because of reductions in funding. Low morale among teachers is having an impact on pupils, with around two-thirds of teachers saying they are considering leaving the profession, according to a recent survey.

NHS workers

The Tories are at it again! This time, they’re trying to push through a real-terms pay cut for NHS workers in England. With over one million NHS staff affected, including nurses, paramedics, and midwives, this is sure to be a controversial move.

Under the Tories’ plans, NHS workers would receive a pay increase of £1,400 a year. However, when inflation is taken into account, this actually amounts to a real-term pay cut of £200 a year for porters, £1,100 for nurses, and £1,500 for paramedics. The main health unions are understandably up in arms about this proposal.

It’s yet another example of the Tories’ complete disregard for the vital role that NHS staff play in our society. We all rely on the NHS when we’re sick or injured, and these dedicated workers deserve to be fairly compensated for their hard work. Imposing a pay cut on them is nothing short of disgraceful.

Fire and Rescue

The FBU union’s executive council has unanimously rejected a 2 percent pay offer from fire and rescue employers. The council says the offer is “insulting” and that plans are being prepared to develop a campaign for decent pay, including the possibility of strike action. With firefighters already among the lowest-paid workers in the public sector, the union is adamant that its members deserve a fair deal. It remains to be seen whether the employers will budge on their offer, but one thing is clear – the FBU is ready to fight for a better deal for its members.

Solidarity union backs our brothers and sisters 100 percent. We must back the strikes however we can. We must encourage other workers outside traditional union structures to organise and take action and co-ordinate our efforts. The strikers are fighting for us all by making it clear that ordinary people will not suffer impoverishment and cuts to their wages to pay for the mistakes of those who misgovern us. Political leaders haven’t fought for the people. The unions must.

By Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union

RMT & ASLEF UNIONS ANNOUNCE NEW RAIL STRIKE DATES

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The Aslef train drivers’ union announced that 6,000 of its members at eight companies will strike on Saturday 30 July. And shortly afterward the RMT union announced a further two strikes on 18 and 20 August by 40,000 workers at Network Rail and 14 train operating companies.

It came a day after the RMT said they would walk out on 27 July—when they’ll also be joined by TSSA union members on the Avanti West Coast line.

Bosses at Network Rail offered a 4 percent increase backdated to January and 2 percent next year, a real terms pay cut when inflation soars to near 12 percent. Workers would also be made to achieve “modernisation milestones”.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “The offer from Network Rail represents a real terms pay cut for our members. The paltry sum is conditional on RMT members agreeing to drastic changes in their working lives.

“We have made progress on compulsory redundancies. But Network Rail is still seeking to make our members poorer when we have won in some cases double what they are offering, with other rail operators.

“The train operating companies remain stubborn and are refusing to make any new offer which deals with job security and pay.”

Everyone who is concerned about and affected by the cost of living crisis will cheer the RMT, ASLEF, and TSSA announcing strike actions.

For the unions to win and ensure that workers don’t pay for the mess that the government has made of the economy it will take a program of sustained, coordinated, and escalating strikes. The government has underestimated the resolve of ordinary workers to protect their incomes and working conditions.

The three days of rail strikes last month gained widespread support—and struck fear into the government and bosses.

Patrick Harrington, our General Secretary, and a former RMT Company Council Rep commented:

“All of us should work to build the biggest possible expression of solidarity on 27 July. During the last round, solidarity protests and rallies were a powerful show of support and would be again. Make sure that you donate to the RMT strike fund, sign the petition against agency workers, and attend your local picket lines where able.”