Britain: RMT strikes – Rail workers’ struggle breathes confidence into the movement

A wave of strike action by RMT members on the railways has emboldened the entire trade union movement. From posties to barristers to airport staff: workers everywhere are moving into action. We say: Unite the struggles! Bring down the Tories!

The scores are in following the first round of battle between the RMT and the bosses. And the verdict is unanimous: the union has chalked up a win, landing a series of heavy blows against the Tories, the bosses, and their lackeys in the media.

All three days of strike action over the last week were solid, with RMT members bringing the railway network to a standstill. At the same time, solidarity and support has flooded in from across the trade union movement, and from the wider working class.

One recent poll, for example, found that 62% of respondents sympathised with striking rail workers. And another survey saw similar numbers wanting the government to intervene to address the union’s concerns over pay, jobs, and safety.

Strong public support has also been seen on picket lines, and at strike rallies held across the country last Saturday (see reports below), with ordinary people turning out to back the rail workers in their fight.

‘Not a wheel turns…’

Nevertheless, the fight is far from over. The government has shown no desire to negotiate or concede to the RMT’s demands. Instead, they have intransigently refused to compromise.

Unsurprisingly, the Tories have closed ranks with rail bosses, launching a vicious propaganda campaign against the union – all aided and abetted by the gutter press, of course.

These attacks have been skillfully deflected by RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, however, who has fought back in defence of striking rail workers, revealing the real class interests that lie behind this dispute.

Whilst answering the lies and smears of the Tories and bosses, the RMT leader has also correctly linked the union’s struggle to the fights facing workers in other sectors.

Speaking at a rally in support of the RMT strike outside Kings Cross station in London last Saturday, for example, Lynch denounced the scourge of low pay and outsourcing that plagues workers everywhere. At the same time, on the back of this super-exploitation, he added, the bosses are raking in super-profits.

Quoting Socialist Appeal founder Ted Grant, Lynch went on to passionately assert that:

“All of you have the power. A wheel doesn’t turn, a light doesn’t go on, without us. We create all of the wealth in this society – all of it. It’s our labour that delivers the services, makes the goods, distributes them, gets them to people.”

Spreading like wildfire

Workers in other sectors, in turn, have clearly been emboldened by the RMT’s inspiring, militant struggle. And with workers across the board facing the same assault on pay, jobs, and conditions, strike action is set to spread like wildfire in the weeks and months ahead.

With no sign of progress in negotiations, further waves of action are in store on the railways. And RMT members could be joined by colleagues from ASLEF and TSSA in future strikes, with these rail unions also balloting members at a number of franchises, and on Network Rail.

Croydon Tramlink drivers organised in ASLEF are already out on strike today and tomorrow. Meanwhile, bus drivers employed by Arriva in Yorkshire are currently undertaking strike action in a dispute over pay.

Elsewhere, CWU members in telecoms and Royal Mail are now balloting to strike. If they vote Yes to action, this could lead to over 200,000 workers across the CWU and RMT striking at the same time. And more unions are likely to follow.

Criminal law barristers in England and Wales have begun strike action this week, shutting down courts as they demand greater funding for legal aid. Civil servants and teachers in PCS and NEU, respectively, are being balloted over pay. And other public sector workers – in the NHS and local government – could follow suit, when the government’s next annual pay offer is presented.

Hundreds of workers at Heathrow airport have voted to walk out during the summer holiday period, meanwhile, protesting against the attacks of airline bosses.

This rising tide of militancy shows why the Tories are stubbornly facing down the RMT. The government fears that appetite will come with eating, and that victory for the rail strikers could spur other workers to demand more. That is why they are so keen to break this strike, and make an example of the union.

Which side are you on?

The Labour leadership have scandalously opposed these strikes and calls for action also, with Keir Starmer and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy amongst those on the party’s frontbench who have publicly denounced the unions and sided with the bosses.

But with inflation continuing to soar, set to reach 11% by October, workers have no choice but to organise and fight back.

By contrast, Socialist Appeal activists have offered RMT strikers their full support and solidarity – on picket lines and protests, and at recent rallies. And we will mobilise to back all workers in struggle against the Tories and bosses.

As RMT leaders have correctly stated: this is class war. We know which side we are on. United and organised, armed with clear socialist policies, it is our class that will win.

  • Solidarity to the RMT!
  • For coordinated mass action to bring down the Tories!
  • Victory to the workers!

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