Rail strikes are set to go ahead this week after the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) voted for them. The strikes are about rail workers pay, working conditions, and threats from bosses of compulsory redundancies.
RMT made it clear that the strikes reflect how every worker deserves fair pay and good conditions. They said:
We want a transport system that operates for the benefit of the people, for the needs of society and our environment – not for private profit.
We call on our members to stand firm, support the action, mount the pickets and demonstrate their willingness to fight for workplace justice.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has so far refused to even enter into talks with unions.
Meanwhile Cat Hobbs, We Own It director, told The Canary:
Grant Shapps should be improving services, not making them worse. The RMT are not only fighting a cost of living squeeze, but for the very future of our railway system.
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But unfortunately, there’s plenty of opposition to the strikes.
‘Misery for millions’
As usual, every time there are strikes the mainstream media does what it can to criticise the striking workers. The BBC had the strike story on their front page:
They claimed that “Travellers face ‘misery’“, but there’s no mention of the workers who have to deal with miserable working conditions.
And the Daily Mail splashed the following headline on their front page:
SUMMER STRIKES PLAGUE SPREADS
VOTERS WON’T FORGIVE RAIL STRIKE BETRAYAL
Who is doing the betraying? Well, not who you might think. Their story read:
The public will never forgive Labour’s failure to condemn the rail strikes that will bring the nation to a halt from tomorrow, Grant Shapps has warned.
Yes, the very same Grant Shapps who hasn’t entered into negotiations with the unions.
As Labour MP Christian Wakeford said:
The party *in power* is accusing a party *not in power* of failing to stop the rail strikes while doing literally nothing to stop rail strikes themselves.
You wouldn’t think they’d been in power for literally 12 years. Shove your petition and get round the table. https://t.co/VC40I3NRhY
— Christian Wakeford MP (@Christian4BuryS) June 20, 2022
However, that doesn’t mean getting round the table is going to be enough. The Guardian reported that:
A wave of 1970s-style economic unrest is threatening to spread from the railways across the public services, as unions representing teachers and NHS workers warn of potential industrial action over pay.
Barristers have also voted to go on strike from next week. The Criminal Bar Association said that over 80% of its members voted to support industrial action. This will affect many ongoing cases, as barristers warn that court backlogs will only get worse.
Moreover, British Airways and Ryanair workers are considering strike action this summer.
And bus drivers across Yorkshire have forced bosses to indefinitely suspend some services after drivers refused to work. Drivers can’t afford to live on wages that haven’t increased in keeping with inflation.
What cost of living crisis?
It’s no accident that more workers are considering their position.
For all the talk of the cost of living crisis, and the rising prices of everyday essentials, there’s more to it than that. As The Canary’s Steve Topple argued, it’s not a cost of living crisis – it’s a war on the poor.
It’s inflation and corporate profits, not workers’ wages, which are at the heart of the cost of living crisis currently gripping the UK.
The report ‘Unite Investigates: Corporate profiteering and the cost of living crisis‘ looks at how bosses are actually making money whilst workers are left struggling to eat and heat their homes.
It found that profit margins for the biggest companies in the UK were 73% higher than before the start of the pandemic. During that time, labour income only rose by 2.61%.
What this means, as the Independent reports, is that:
almost 60 per cent of recent price rises have been driven by excess company profits, compared with just 8 per cent due to labour costs.
The biggest companies are making huge profits that come at the expense of workers. The rail strikes are just the first of what will probably be more strikes this summer. Teachers, bin workers, cleaners, nurses, doctors, and many more are being forced to strike by greedy bosses.
Undoubtedly, the strikes are disruptive. As they should be! The whole point of a strike is to withdraw labour so that everyone can see the value of that labour. We can’t believe mainstream media outlets when they make it seem like it’s rail workers who are causing ‘misery’. We need to show complete solidarity with rail workers, because labour conditions affect us all.
Boris Johnson isn’t running the country. It’s workers who run the country. It’s a national disgrace that people can work full-time and still not afford rent, food, and bills. By supporting the rail workers, and any other strikes, we can show that it’s people who have the power – not corrupt bosses.
Featured image by Wikimedia Commons/Emmett via CC 2.0, resized to 770 x 403
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