Rail and underground strikes combine to show workers’ strength

Tens of thousands of RMT members were striking again over an insulting pay offer, jobs cuts and destruction of their working conditions in August – this time with other rail unions. On 18 and 20 August, TSSA union were out with the RMT members on railways nationally. And on 19 August, Unite the union were striking with the RMT on London Underground and Overground. Plus, on 19 August, bus drivers in West London were striking at the same time over pay. See ‘Support the national RMT strikes’.

Liverpool Street Station

Broxbourne, Hertforshire

by Bea Gardner

A striking worker explained to me how the workers are best placed to understand what modernisation was needed on the railway, how it could work, and that nationalisation is needed. He gave the example of how the company invested in new trains that didn’t even fit the platform!

Now work to the station is being done by four different contractors that don’t communicate and that disregard health and safety, but blame workers when something goes wrong.

He agreed that we all need to strike together and that the movement also needs a political voice. He agreed the TUC should use its upcoming congress to coordinate the fightback, and that RMT general secretary Mick Lynch should use his authority gained from this strike to take a proposal for coordinated action to the TUC.

He also said that if there was a general election, Mick Lynch should stand, so workers can have a political voice. He said: “Some people argue we can’t change anything. And they are right. We can’t change anything on our own, as one person. But we can when we stand together”.

Edmonton Green, north London

by Ian Pattison

There were no London Overground trains at Edmonton Green, and even though national rail services weren’t facing strikes on 19 August, there wasn’t a train running until 1pm because of the knock-on effect of all the week’s rail strikes.

An agency worker felt he had to go in. But the striking RMT members did a great job of persuading him to join the union, which he agreed to do, and to get his workmates to do the same. The striking workers explained that because agency staff are technically self-employed, other workers like them in RMT have taken strike action without even balloting.

The strikers reported that managers who were working were dressing up as regular rail workers to give the impression that more staff were in. But worryingly, rumours were going round that private contractors were planning to do maintenance work, even though it wouldn’t be safe with the strike on.

Cockfosters, London Underground

by Josh Asker

Workers picketed a very quiet Cockfosters fleet depot and tube station in north London early on 19 August. Workers on both pickets spoke of the looming attacks on pensions, one older striker is paying especially close attention as his hard-won pension faces being snatched away by TfL bosses right before retirement.

At the depot, RMT members coming from the nightshift stopped to support the pickets, and for a bacon sandwich and cup of tea (thanks Chris!) They explained how security had initially refused entry to the depot manager, telling him: “We’re not allowed to let anyone in!”

Only one tube driver went into work at the station, citing his Aslef membership as a reason to do so. The debate was about how best to persuade him to stay on the right side of the line next time. The feeling is that when details of potential pensions attacks become clearer, motivation to strike will be even wider and stronger. As one picket put it: “It’s a class war, decide whose side you are on”.

More reports from outside London at Socialist Party national site.