Interview – Transport for London worker and RMT rep – On recent rail strikes – October 2022

Angry Workers

We are seeing an increase in strike action in the UK, which is a good thing, but we don’t know much about the experiences and views of workers who are involved in them. We rely on the official statements of the trade union press officers, which doesn’t help us to answer the main questions when it comes to strikes: are the strikes actually effective, do they hurt the bosses? Do workers overcome divisions between different contracts, departments, professional groups or sectors? Do workers themselves learn how to conduct their own struggles and decide about form and goals?

The following interview with a comrade who works at Transport for London is a small step towards a more general debate between striking workers. We have to create independent forums to lead the debate, independent from political parties or trade union headquarters who have their separate interests when it comes to the strikes and mainly see them as recruitment grounds. If you feel the same, get in touch. If you want to talk about your strike experiences, get in touch. You can read a previous interview with the comrade about the situation during the Covid pandemic here. For a good general overview of the current crisis in global transport, check this out.

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*** The current rail strikes

The recent strikes have been declared the biggest rail dispute in a generation, with 50,000 workers from rail services to track maintenance to Transport for London. Was there a different quality to that strike, for example, was there more communication between workers from the different rail sectors?

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‘Don’t Pay’ or ‘Enough is Enough’: The role of workers’ vanguards in the current moment – Lessons to learn from GKN workers in Italy and others

Angry Workers

There are moments when a particular group of workers can become the political focus for the wider working class. They can act as a pole of attraction, they can become a conduit for a wider program and new forms of struggle.

The current wave of strikes in Britain shows that significant sections of the working class feel both the need and ability to defend their own interests. It has come at a point in the deepening crisis where the mainstream political establishment is unable to present meaningful state-driven solutions.

In desperation, the controlling Tory party has ditched Johnson and created several months of vacuum where they don’t even pretend to generate plans to ease hardships. That convulsion in the governing party is not unique to Britain. Unable to respond to crisis and pacify the population, governments elsewhere in Western Europe have also dissolved. In France, Macron’s party have lost control of the National Assembly and, in Italy, Draghi’s coalition government has collapsed.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the British Labour Party has been intent on showing themselves as the next Government to prop up the capitalist status quo in Britain. They are so keen to prove that point that, week in, week out, they have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from struggling workers.

While the absence of a plan is lamented by the reformists, we think it opens up an opportunity to strengthen the chance for workers’ struggles to progress from singular defensive battles to a wider political program for the working class.

Things are churning

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CWU pickets at BT openreach.

Wobblies from our branch have been supporting these pickets in Dorset and as far afield as Sussex. Here’s a picture from the one in Bognor on Monday.

A FW writes:

BT Open Reach were on strike today and are out at least twice this month. As a smaller part of the CWU they are beginning to feel a bit left out over Royal Mail’s dispute so if FWs could share a bit on Social Media to friends and Comrades it may help to get the message out a bit about their struggle.

Support RMT strikes next week, pickets and fundraiser.

RMT striking rail workers are leading the way – join them!

Support solidarity pickets Thursday 18th August
Weymouth Station 10am-12 noon
Bournemouth Station 9am-12.30pm

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole TUC Strike Fundraiser Wednesday 17 August 7pm

At the Firkin Shed Bournemouth.

Donate to the Dorset RMT strike fund

Name: RMT Dorset Rail Branch Sort Code: 608391 Account No: 33704454

London IWW Statement of Solidarity with UK Rail Workers

The London Branch of the IWW stands with the rail workers in their ongoing dispute. They are fighting not just for themselves, but for us all: as well as their livelihoods, the safety standards of the British rail network are under threat. The government-backed rail operators are attempting to reduce staffing levels on platforms, trains, and tracks in order to drive down wages, which they see simply as an overhead cost. Further, they intend to rehire many workers on zero-hours agency contracts in order to circumnavigate labour rights such as paid leave for holiday, sickness, and parenthood as well as allowing them to dismiss workers without notice or redundancy pay.

The transport industry is one of the few remaining industries in Britain with high union membership. This attempt to break it up by dividing the workforce is a direct attempt to weaken the unions, and the labour movement as a whole.

On top of it all, comes a slap in the face: during this period of exaggerated cost of living, and while the shareholders take home millions in profit, they are offering the workers that they aren’t trying to sack a real-terms pay cut.

However, the workers are standing strong: in the face of an endless torrent of vitriol from the British government and press, they are taking every opportunity to expose the inequalities and injustice that they face. Members of our branch have been proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with these workers on the picket lines, and we will continue to offer our support until the dispute is won. As long as we continue to stand together, we can tip the balance in the favour of workers around the world.

Mutual aid is the currency of solidarity; direct support for the striking worker is crucial to their success. As such, the IWW London branch are setting a budget to allow members to donate food and drinks to workers on the picket lines, and we encourage any members or supporters with the means to make a donation to the strike funds.

The momentum of the union movement is growing once again in Britain after half a century of targeted assault. Public support is on the rise, and workers in unions across the country are balloting to take action and stand up for their rights and their dignity. The doubling-down on anti-union rhetoric by the government and press is evidence that they are aware of the power that a unionised workforce wields, and that they are threatened by it. The IWW welcomes any and all workers both in and out of employment and of any nation, race, gender, or creed. Together we stand for a fairer world.

Solidarity forever.

Met police apologies and pays compensation for arrest of union official on picket line

UNITED VOICES OF THE WORLD

  • The Metropolitan Police (Met) has apologised to a United Voices of the World (UVW) official for his arrest, settled a claim brought by UVW, and paid compensation to both the union and its member worth a total £5,000
  • The Met apologised and paid £3,000 in compensation to former head of UVW’s legal department Franck Magennis for “the way you were treated when you were arrested, put in handcuffs and searched” on a picket line in January 2020
  • The police also settled a legal claim brought by UVW before it reached the courts, and agreed to pay the union £2,000. The union claimed the Met had violated articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights when it broke its picket outside St George’s University Hospital

The Met issued a written apology and paid £3,000 in compensation to Franck Magennis, a barrister at Garden Court chambers and former head of UVW’s legal department, for arresting him while on a picket line outside the St George’s University Hospital in south London on January 13 2020. The police turned up in large numbers, distributed leaflets on behalf of the university to dispel the lawful picket and threatened the workers and union officials with arrest unless they left the campus. They detained and handcuffed Magennis when he enquired about the legal basis for the warning.

In the apology, signed by Inspector Andy O’Donnell of the Directorate of Professional Standards Civil Actions & Inquests, the Met apologised to Magennis, for

View post.

In times like these…

  • Where a global crisis is once again followed by the threat of global war
  • Where inflation is attack on our wages world-wide, while also so-called left governments from Germany to Spain to the USA agree to spend billions extra on rearmament
  • Where the ruling class tries to deepen the division within our class, e.g. in form of deportations to Rwanda or other scapegoating actions
  • Where the introduction of automation and technology doesn’t lead to a better life for everyone, but an increase of unemployment and pressure on wages

We have to be ready to break the cage of the law by…

  • organising strikes in stronger sectors in solidarity with workers’ struggles in weaker sectors
  • resisting job cuts and company closures if necessary through occupations
  • fighting by all means necessary against overtime and work stress while others have trouble finding a job
  • squatting empty flats and houses in response to increasing homelessness
    refusing that people of our class go hungry or cold if necessary by defying energy bills
  • physically opposing migration raids, deportations, evictions or arrests at picket-lines

We have to prepare ourselves for this. We have to stop acting like victims. The competition between trade unions and their fear to defy the law make them only a limited weapon in our struggle. Most organisations want to proclaim victories and therefore don’t allow us to learn from the strong and weak points of our strikes and struggles. We have to learn to speak for ourselves.

During the pandemic we have seen that workers in the so-called ‘essential sectors – transport, health, food – would well be able to run society in a better, more equal and less destructive way. We will have to take on this responsibility and wrest the means of production from the abyss of their system of profits and power.

Here in Bristol, like elsewhere, we have to find each other. Some of us work at Southmead hospital, others in local schools. We run a solidarity network in Avonmouth industrial and logistics area.

angryworkersworld@gmail.com / angryworkers.org