“Not only has privatisation failed to support public transport workers but it has undermined the hopes of the UK decarbonising its economy by prioritising profits over transitioning to electric and sustainably powered trains and buses.”
By Chris Saltmarsh, Labour for a Green New Deal
For many the decision to strike for fair pay and better working conditions is a last resort, yet this year we have seen workers from multiple privatised industries organise within their unions to vote in favour of industrial action. Most recently this decision has been made by the 370 members of Unite employed by Stagecoach in Merseyside, who will be striking for better pay across multiple days in July providing no agreement is reached with their employer. This follows the efforts recently made by railway workers from the RMT union whose demands include a fair pay increase, protection against job cuts and internal fire and rehire practices. Labour for a Green New Deal (LGND) fully supports these workers who are key to the infrastructure of our communities and should not be having their pay frozen or kept below inflation, which jumped to 11.7% in May this year.
It is unacceptable that Stagecoach were able to double their profits from £16.1 million to £32.9 million in the second half of 2021 and yet they continue to keep their workers’ pay below inflation during a cost of living crisis. This is not unique to Stagecoach or bus companies in general but the same pattern of withholding pay from our key workers is consistent across other private transport companies. For example, the train leasing company Rosco paid out nearly £1 billion in dividends to its shareholders during the pandemic, whilst railway workers are facing pay freezes and a longer working week.
While the Labour leadership refuses to stand with striking workers on their picket lines, LGND are in full support of them and will campaign for complete public ownership of the railways and bus network. By nationalising public transport we can ensure that all profits are reinvested back into our communities and the transport systems that they rely on instead of being hoarded for private wealth.
With public ownership, we can also shift power away from private companies and empower workers to lead a just transition of our public transport services to significantly reduce our emissions. Not only has privatisation failed to support public transport workers but it has undermined the hopes of the UK decarbonising its economy by prioritising profits over transitioning to electric and sustainably powered trains and buses. For instance, 62% of the mainline railway route is yet to be electrified based on the figures from 2019-20. During the same period it was also reported that electric consumption and emissions for freight trains actually decreased whilst diesel consumption increased by 12.5% compared with the previous year. Additionally transport was the UK’s largest source of emissions constituting 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, with 55% of these relating to car usage. Given the extent of the profiteering that occurs within private transport companies, it is clear that the current system is not set up to protect the environment nor its workers.
With the money that is currently being kept in the hands of shareholders, a worker-led just transition can invest this public money into the electrification of our railways and to support free local-bus services which would make using public transport a far more accessible option and inevitably bring down the number of cars on our roads. Rail jobs are green jobs. As the climate crisis intensifies, we need more of them not less.
In supporting the current industrial action of public transport workers we also recognise how vital trade unions are in organising workers to demand more from the government in every issue, including climate change, and to expand our public services. LGND will also continue to campaign to repeal all anti-trade union laws to strengthen future industrial action and to help democratise workplaces across all industries. Only with this level of worker-led organising can we effectively transform global supply chains by promoting decarbonisation, human rights, good working conditions and living wage at every stage of production.