“Solidarity to all rail workers on strike against job losses, risks to passenger safety, erosion of terms and conditions and pay. We are with you.”Rebecca Long Bailey MP
By Logan Williams, NEU activist & Arise Festival volunteer
Yesterday saw the latest day of strike action undertaken within this “summer of solidarity” by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA,) with over 40,000 workers across Network Rail and fourteen train operating companies taking strike action.
Both the RMT and TSSA are leading the labour movement’s fight against the cost-of-living crisis and poverty pay but, they will soon be joined by CWU members within BT who are undertaking national strike action on the 29th July and the 1st of August against corporate greed; ASLEF members who are undertaking national strike action on the 30th July and the 13th August against a below inflation pay offer; and by Unison who are strike action within the AQA exam board on the 29th, 30th and 31st of July. They also may be joined by members of the FBU, UNITE, the NEU, and, the NASUWT who are all discussing the launch of national strike ballots in the Autumn.
The railway workers have been supported in their fight for an above inflation pay rise by thousands of supporters standing alongside them on picket lines from both the labour and social movements and, in the case of Glasgow Central a solidarity march finishing with a flash mob protest from supporters within the station itself. Within these countless supporters a sizeable number of Labour Parliamentarians; primarily from but not limited to members of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MP’s, stood alongside pickets in contrast to Keir Starmer’s previous “No Picket Lines” edict to Shadow Minister.
These Members of Parliament representing the core values of the Labour movement of standing alongside workers in struggle included:
Tahir Ali who stood shoulder to shoulder with RMT members in Birmingham.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy who stood alongside RMT members on picket lines at Waterloo Station.
Richard Burgon stood alongside RMT members in a reportedly huge demonstration of support in Leeds.
Olivia Blake who stood in solidarity with RMT members alongside socialist Labour Councillors in Sheffield.
Ian Mearns joined not just one but two pickets at Gateshead Depot and Control Centre and at Newcastle Central station alongside North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll.
Kim Johnson, Paula Barker, Ian Byrne and, Mick Whitley all joined characteristically vibrant picket lines outside of Liverpool Lime Street Station.
Ian Lavery joined constituent members at Bedlington Station where he described the picket line as having brilliant craic.
Former Labour leadership candidate and member of Parliament for Salford Rebecca Long Bailey supported RMT members in Manchester by joining their picket line.
Former Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections Andy McDonald joined RMT members in Middlesbrough in demanding Britain have a pay rise.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP joined RMT members at Brighton station where he reaffirmed his determination to always defend the right of workers to organise in their trade union.
and, finally former Shadow Chancellor and RMT Parliamentary group convenor John McDonell, former Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and, Shadow Transport Minister Sam Tarry all joined picket lines outside of Euston Station.
Despite overwhelming public support for the RMT and TSSA strike action and clear support from Labour Members of Parliament, Members of the Senedd, Members of the Scottish Parliament and, countless Labour councillors across Britain, we have now seen the cynical removal of MP Sam Tarry from the Shadow Frontbench. This is allegedly due to “breaking collective responsibility” by stating, rightly, that RMT and TSSA members should not take what amounts to a real term wage cut through a below inflation pay offer whilst on the Picket Line at Euston station yesterday morning.
This cynical move to oust a leading fighter for public ownership of the railways and trade union rights from the front bench has rightly caused outrage amongst party members, representatives and, affiliated and non-affiliated trade unions alike with Tarry’s former General Secretary, Manuel Cortes of the TSSA, stating “whatever excuses the party make about the reasons for Sam being sacked, the reality is that Sam has shown solidarity with his class, and we applaud him for that… As a Labour affiliated union, our union is ashamed of the actions of the Labour Party leadership and the anti-worker anti-union message it is sending out”.
It is for this reason that the Labour Assembly Against Austerity has launched the Keir Starmer- Back Workers Taking Action petition demanding that the Shadow front bench join the rest of the labour movement in publicly supporting those taking action to protect our futures against the devaluation of crucial jobs by corporate greed and, for the reinstatement of Sam Tarry to his previous Shadow Transport Minister role.
It is vital now that we build in support of trade union members standing on picket lines throughout the summer and autumn and, in support of the Grassroots 5 slate for the NEC who will all fight to ensure that the Labour party stands in solidarity with the Labour movement when in struggle.
- Logan Williams is an NEU activist and a volunteer organiser for Arise: A Festival of Left Ideas.
- Sign the Keir Starmer – Back Workers Taking Action! petition here.
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