Trade unions are showing no signs of backing down in the face of bosses’ refusal to treat workers fairly. Three of the UK’s biggest unions (the CWU, RCN and RMT) have all announced either further strikes, or ballots indicating them. However, the capitalist goons and politicians running the show are all behaving like cornered rats – showing that these industrial disputes are far from over.
CWU: at war with Royal Mail
First up, and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced the result of its latest ballot of members against Royal Mail. The union said in a press release that workers:
have voted by 95.9% on a 77.3% turnout to take further strike action. Despite the intensity of the dispute and employees retiring or leaving the company, turnout rose from the two previous ballots (which were 77% and 72.2% respectively). This makes this vote the biggest mandate for strike action since the implementation of the 2016 Trade Union Act.
New CWU strikes will be on top of 18 days of previous ones. However, Royal Mail bosses have already behaved appallingly – trying to intimidate staff, lying to parliamentary committees, and using legal technicalities to stop some strike action. So, somewhat predictably Royal Mail has already gone on the attack.
A company “source” told Sky News that Royal Mail:
was “bleeding” cash and could not afford to raise its “best and final” wage offer beyond the £400m collective hike that was on the table.
They argued that the business was losing customer confidence because of the continuing dispute and risked becoming increasingly uncompetitive as it already paid its staff up to 40% more than cheaper rivals.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
“Fewer customers means a smaller business and means we need fewer people”, the source said.
Clearly Royal Mail is not going to negotiate with the union further. So, expect workers to be out on strike again very soon.
RCN: at war with Tories
Next, and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has confirmed more dates for strike action. Nurses will be walking-out in an escalation on previous strikes. The RCN said that:
Following months of inaction from the UK government, RCN members in England will strike around the clock for 48 hours in March, with no wide-ranging derogations in place and increased strike benefit payments available to striking members.
run without pause for 48 hours from the morning of Wednesday 1 March to the morning of Friday 3 March with every single member in England, where there is a mandate to strike, being called to withdraw their labour.
We are working directly to ensure that these services are reduced to an absolute minimum. It is always the employer’s responsibility to ensure life-preserving services, so we expect life-preserving care to be provided by members of the wider workforce and other clinical professions.
It’s of little wonder the union has upped the ante – because the Tory health secretary is essentially AWOL. RCN general secretary Pat Cullen told the BBC Steve Barclay had not met with her for a month:
I’m deeply disappointed that I go back every moment of the day to the 320,000 nurses who took part in this ballot for strike action and say to them that I have no news for them.
Of course, Barclay is all too quick to talk to the media – peddling the usual anti-NHS strike trope about ‘patients being at risk’. Clearly the Tories are hoping that by doing nothing the RCN will just go away – which is highly unlikely.
RMT union: at war with the rail companies and the Tories
Finally, and the National Union of Rail, Transport and Maritime Workers (RMT) has also announced more strike dates – here, because of both bosses and government inaction. Workers across 14 rail companies will be walking out on 16, 18 and 30 March, and 1 April. Plus, the RMT has called strike action across Network Rail on 16-17 March – and its putting in place overtime bans on certain days. The union said that a previous offer from train companies:
did not meet the needs of members on pay, job security or working conditions.
The union’s general secretary Mick Lynch went further, placing the blame directly at the government’s door:
The government can settle this dispute easily by unshackling the rail companies.
However, its stubborn refusal to do so will now mean more strike action across the railway network and a very disruptive overtime ban.
Ministers cannot continue to sit on their hands hoping this dispute will go away as our members are fully prepared to fight tooth and nail for a negotiated settlement in the months ahead.
The cronies at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train companies, showed that they’re clearly not willing to compromise – despite these organisations making hundreds of millions in profits – with one company dishing out half a billion to shareholders. A spokesperson told Sky News, without irony:
This latest round of strikes is totally unjustified and will be an inconvenience to our customers, and cost our people more money at a time they can least afford it.
Tory transport minister Richard Holden was no better – effectively calling on workers to scab against their union:
I hope the RMT members put pressure on the union executive to say that they don’t want to keep going like this.
So, much like the CWU and RCN, it seems RMT action will continue indefinitely.
Unions: not backing down
Some of this strike action is confined to England – specifically the RCN. In other nations like Scotland and Wales, governments have been more open to negotiations. Unions have called some strikes off while they consider pay offers. Of course, the RMT strike doesn’t directly affect train services in Scotland – because it’s operator is government-controlled. So, once again the Westminster Tory government is at the heart of why unions are striking – and given it’s authoritarian, anti-worker agenda, this means 2023 will probably be filled with industrial action across the board.
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.