(Photo credit: Paul McGowan)
June and July’s rounds of action by rail workers were a huge step forward, not just for rail workers, but workers everywhere. After so long of wages stagnating while profits and prices fly through the roof, millions showed their support at workers taking action and leading the way while working class people are being squeezed under the capitalist ‘cost of living’ crisis.
The record temperatures we have endured in July caused havoc on our railways. Yet the Tories want to cut staffing numbers even further! It shows how all the talk of ‘modernisation’ is a fraud – big business wants to push the calendar back through privatisation and profiteering. We cannot let them get away with that.
The Tory government is in crisis. While they find a replacement and while Johnson hides away, we need to go on the offensive while they are weak and divided. In Scotland the SNP government offer no real alternative, and using Westminster as an excuse to pass on attacks on workers’ living standards.
This is the first time since the pandemic that the rotten pay caps being imposed on workers by both Westminster and Holyrood will be put to the test. If the rail workers are defeated, employers and the government will feel emboldened to attack pay, jobs and conditions even further to keep their profits up. But if we win, this could unleash an even bigger wave of struggle. We will have to prove that the workers movement has the power and determination to smash the pay cap and fight for inflation-aligned pay rises for all!
The question on many of our lips will be, how can we coordinate all the strikes?
For the rest of this year, we’re set to see action from postal workers, teachers, lecturers, bus drivers and many more. It is absolutely essential that there is a plan to coordinate these disputes on a national and local level to maximise impact. A bold, fighting and campaigning approach is going to be needed to avoid losing momentum between strike dates.
This could mean well-advertised joint pickets, which would then be able to appeal to agency workers to refuse to be used to break the strike. Large town and city-centre demonstrations in particular should target the scab agency companies, alongside demanding nationalisation of rail, mail and energy – all demands that would win big support.
All of these things are not only possible in spite of anti-trade union legislation, but will be urgently needed to win our demands! Already, the new Enough is Enough campaign provides an opportunity to build just this.
Many will rightly be wondering what the dispute will look like after this round of action. Will it be enough to push the employers back to the table, or could they ride it out?
Branches should consider raising across the union the need for a joined up approach to escalating the action. This would mean a strategy to arrange action on a more frequent basis, in order to avoid losing momentum. This would then give time for RMT activists to raise support among the workforce, as the only way to show the employers and government that we won’t back down in our demands.
This would then allow the union to turn out towards the public. The recent discussions within the RMT about organising street stalls in town centres is a big step forward. If an appeal is sent out to the whole trade union movement to take part in these actions, it would send a signal to unorganised workers to join their unions and consider fighting back.
This struggle is a real turning point. A victory would be a step towards a more generalised mass movement that can fight for price control, decent pay tied to inflation, workers’ control over our workplaces and nationalisation and democratic planning to meet our needs!