Railway maintenance workers, employed by French company Alstom, are in the middle of 6 days of strike action. Members of the RMT, they work on the West Coast contract and have been faced with a pay freeze, in reality a pay cut. This is despite working long hours in difficult conditions throughout the pandemic.
The company claims that the Covid-19 crisis has caused a drop in their income and that they can’t afford to give a pay rise to their workers. However, Alstom recently borrowed €2 billion to take over Bombardier and now the company is worth €8.4 billion. Just two weeks ago, they secured a contract worth £12.4 million to work on ScotRail electric trains. They are not short of cash – and they saw fit to give managers Christmas bonuses. On the other hand, they tried to placate workers by offering them a free lunch!
At the Longsight depot in Manchester, one RMT member said: “Managers get a bonus and we get a pay freeze and a petrol station meal deal! The bottom rung of managers got £1500, which makes you wonder what they got higher up.”
The picket lines have been well supported with around 50 workers present on a rainy, freezing Manchester evening. The workers were not phased by attempts of management intimidation including the filming of those on the picket lines, and responded with chants of ‘no rise, no respect!’. They were also boosted by support from other RMT activists in Manchester – including train guards who took an outstanding 49 days of strike action over a whole year to resist Driver Only Operation – RMT President Michelle Rogers and members of Socialist Alternative.
The strike is continuing until the 23rd December but if the workers don’t force the company to back down by then, the determination is there for the fight needed to win. This action must be supported by the entire trade union movement in the area – solidarity will be needed as workers take action to ensure it is not us who pay the price for this crisis.