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Volume 52 Number 16, June 26, 2022 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Stand as One with the Striking Rail Workers!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Stand as One with the Striking Rail Workers!

TUC March and Rally Proclaims "We Demand Better - Enough Is Enough"

For Your Reference - Information from the TUC:
No to Lifting the Ban on Agency Workers During Strikes

For Your Reference - Information from the TUC:
The Situation with NHS Workers


Stand as One with the Striking Rail Workers!


RMT contingent on the TUC march "We Demand Better - Enough Is Enough"

A powerful strike began on the morning of June 21, organised by the Railway, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT). It is recorded as the biggest national rail strike for decades, the largest in the industry since privatisation, involving some 25,000 workers.


Berwick

Less than 20% of trains are running after staff walked off the job at midnight, many areas have no rail service at all. London Underground workers are also on strike. Two more days of strike action followed on Thursday and Saturday, June 23 and 25. The strike has a direct bearing over the funding of railways and investment, and hence control over the direction of the economy.

Network Rail's boss says he is "profoundly sorry" for the disruption, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged passengers to "stay the course", declaring the proposed "reforms" are in their interest - containing as they do plans to destroy infrastructure such as closing 1,000 ticket offices. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has devoted himself to getting all and sundry to condemn the strike. These callous positions are not in the interest of workers or the public and create further disequilibrium in employment relations.

Coventry

The action by workers is over jobs, pay and safety, which are linked to workers' rights to a livelihood, a decent standard of living, and control over their working conditions. The conditions of work at issue in the present struggle range from guards on trains to track monitoring and maintenance.

Together with last Saturday's TUC march to defend workers' rights and the rights of all, the strike signals that the working class and people are intensifying their struggles in the face of the assault on their rights. Working people are saying that enough is enough, and the rail workers are currently in the forefront of this fight.

The cost-of-living crisis is intensifying, while the government, along with vested interests, have gone into hysteria with anti-worker laments of "holding the country to ransom". But such whining will have the opposite effect to that they wish for, as more and more workers, all of whom are in the same boat, see that their interests conflict with self-serving political and economic interests. The strike is a vital and important struggle of working people to fight against the callous lowering of wages as costs spiral.


Newcastle

The government, Shapps and Johnson, are all attempting to create distance from the negotiations in the public eye, but they lie exposed. Shapps has in fact refused to discuss with the union because "it would undermine the position of the employers in that negotiation", to use his words. RMT leader Mick Lynch has pointed out that the government is pulling all of the strings behind the railway management.

In this strike, workers are putting their weight behind their demands; they are intent that the government listen and negotiate. The old line of the government absolving itself from "commercial decisions" holds no water. Instead, the government resorts to its police powers, saying that it will bring in legislation to compel the railways to continue to operate when the transport workers are on strike [1].

Nuneaton

The government claims that if these workers do not knuckle under and concede, the economy will be damaged, the rail industry will be on its knees and people will suffer further. Speaking at a rail depot on June 16 in Hornsey, north London, Shapps threatened workers with job losses. "Don't risk striking yourselves out of a job," he warned. Claiming that the strikes will drive down passenger numbers, he declared: "If we can't get people back to our railways, then of course we will have to cut the railways' cloth."

Government and management allege that the railways are in a separate situation that demands higher productivity from workers. The government points its finger at the unionised workers and their "outmoded working practices". As for what the government counters as "modern", Shapps said that Sunday working should be made compulsory. This is a flavour of what they mean by "productivity". The argument is nothing but the capital-centric distortion that workers are a cost. No mention is made of the huge amount of new value created by the rail workers and the added value, the profit, being siphoned off. Instead, the supposed cost of work is used to pit worker against worker, particularly in the public sector, to compare average salaries in a race to the bottom.

No discussion of how the rail industry should be funded is permitted. It is taken as obvious that the source is ticket sales. Yet the owners of capital benefit massively from the existence of rail transport - almost a half (46%) of around what is typically a billion rail journeys per year are for commuting and business purposes [2]. Much, such as commuting, is paid for by the individual. Business do not contribute to the value transferred in this way to the product their workers produce, profiteering and in so doing draining value from the rail sector. Ensuring businesses pay for the value they derive from rail could do much to allow ticket prices to fall and make travelling rail more affordable and so attractive to people, benefiting the environment and economy.

The strike is an important school for workers, giving them confidence. It shows that workers themselves can speak out in their own name and collectively and individually elaborate solutions, in that sense empowering themselves as a workers' opposition to the Westminster cartel. It is a step towards workers becoming worker politicians with their own independent programme for a new direction for the economy to serve the people's interests, and the control of political affairs in the hands of working people.


Notes

1. "Government Confronts the Power of the Workers' Movement with Police Powers", Workers' Weekly, June 18, 2022
http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-22/ww22-15/ww22-15-02.htm
2. "Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2021", December 16, 2021
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/transport-statistics-great-britain-2021/transport-statistics-great-britain-2021

Article Index



TUC March and Rally Proclaims "We Demand Better - Enough Is Enough"

On June 18, tens of thousands of working people marched through the streets of central London and held a rally in Parliament Square, demanding action from the government to combat the cost-of-living crisis. The working people and their trade unions demanded better living conditions, real pay raises and a living wage for all, a ban on fire and re-hire schemes, decent sick benefits and an end to racism at work. They demanded that energy profits be taxed so that people can pay their bills, a boost in union bargaining rights now, and many more changes that would ensure rights and dignified living for all.

The day of action was organised by the Trades Union Congress, with workers of many sectors taking part. Students, anti-poverty organisations and others also participated. A feature of the day was the organising capability of workers through their trade unions, demonstrating their spirit and their discipline to affirm, speak out for, and defend their rights. The size of the march can be gauged from the fact that it took around two hours for all the contingents to pass its starting point. The trade union contingents not only had their own banners, tee-shirts and balloons, for example, but literally practically every individual carried placards expressing their own demands. It was also the case that the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the railworkers union, the RMT, received a hero's welcome as they entered Parliament Square in recognition of their fore-front role in articulating and fighting for the demands of the whole working class.

RCPB(ML) also played its part in discussing with people on the march and distributing copies of its June 18 statement specially reproduced for the occasion [1].

The march and rally signified that the working class and people are intensifying the struggles in the face of the assault on their rights, the laws against the working people's right to organise, and the rights of the whole of society. Working people are saying that enough is enough, and the march and rally were evidence that they are on the march to defend their rights and the rights of all.


Notes

1. "Enough Is Enough! Working People on the March to Defend their Rights and the Rights of All!", Workers' Weekly, June 18, 2022
http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-22/ww22-15/ww22-15-01.htm


A selection of photos from the march (slide or swipe to see more)

Article Index



For Your Reference - Information from the TUC

No to Lifting the Ban on Agency Workers During Strikes

Lifting the ban on agency workers during strikes would be reckless and endanger public safety, the TUC points out. Responding to reports that the government is looking to lift the ban on the use of agency workers during strikes, TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

"This government is desperate to distract from its numerous failings by picking a fight with unions. Allowing agency staff to replace striking workers would undermine the right to strike and be extremely reckless. Bringing in less qualified and experienced staff to deliver important services would create genuine safety risks for the public and for the workforce. Using agency workers to try and break strikes would put these workers in an appalling situation, worsen disputes and poison industrial relations. Some may not realise until it is too late that they are being asked to break a strike.

"Having repeatedly promised a high-wage economy, ministers now seem determined to reduce workers' bargaining power and to make it harder for working people to win fair pay and conditions. Let's call this out for what it is. The PM is throwing red meat to his rebellious backbenchers to try and sure up his position."

The Chief Executive of REC - the agency worker industry body - has also spoken out against the proposals.

Neil Carberry tweeted: "Repealing the ban on agency workers replacing those on strike is the wrong policy - it puts agency workers and agencies in an invidious position and moves the focus away from resolving the dispute. REC will oppose any moves in this direction."

Article Index



For Your Reference - Information from the TUC

The Situation with NHS Workers

Ahead of announcements on public sector pay, TUC reveals that NHS workers face huge real terms pay cuts this year if wage settlements don't keep up with inflation. Nurses will suffer £1,600 real wage hit this year, if ministers impose a 3% pay settlement. The cost of living crisis is pushing NHS workers to the brink, after "brutal decade" of pay cuts which left workers thousands of pounds worse off.

The TUC on June 10 published new analysis which shows how NHS key workers will face a huge real terms pay cut this year should ministers impose a 3% pay settlement.

In 2021, NHS workers got a 3% pay settlement. Ministers have asked the NHS pay review body to recommend a similar award this year. Unions warn this will fall well below the cost of living, with inflation running at 9%.

The new analysis reveals that nurses' pay will be down as much as £1,600 in real terms this year if ministers impose just a 3% pay settlement.

The picture is bleak for many other NHS staff too - the analysis shows that with a 3% pay settlement: Porters' real pay will be down by £1,000 this year; Maternity care assistants' real pay will be down by £1,200 this year; Paramedics' real pay will be down by up £2,000 this year

The analysis has also found that a below-inflation pay rises for NHS staff this year would be "swallowed up" by rising energy costs - with energy prices rising 40 times faster than NHS workers' wages this year in the event of a 3% settlement.

Brutal decade of lost pay

The cost of living emergency comes after a "brutal" decade of standstill wages, which the TUC says has left workers badly exposed to skyrocketing bills.

Key workers in the NHS are still earning thousands of pounds a year less - in real terms - than in 2010, according to new analysis by the union body: Nurses' real pay is down £5,200 compared to 2010; Porters' real pay is down by £2,500 compared to 2010; Maternity care assistants' real pay is down by £4,300 compared to 2010; Paramedics' real pay is down by £6,700 compared to 2010

The TUC says that stagnant wages have played a major role in the "crippling staff shortages" that vital NHS services are facing. The union body is calling for decent pay rises for all public service workers to at least match the cost of living and begin to restore earnings lost over the last decade.

Mammoth economic hit

The TUC warns that any decision to hold down NHS workers' wages will suck demand out of the economy and stunt economic growth, after new analysis from the union body revealed the "mammoth" hit to England's economy as a result of standstill wages. The union body has modelled household spending power in the event of a 3% pay settlement for NHS workers, and compared it with household spending power if NHS workers were offered a pay rise that keeps pace with the cost of living. England faces a whopping £2.1 billion loss of economic activity as a result of NHS wages failing to keep pace with inflation, according to the union body.

The North East, Yorkshire and Humber and the North West are the regions which suffer the worst proportionate hits to household spending power.

The union body points to the new research and says healthy pay rises for public sector workers are not only important for NHS workers, but for the wider economy too. The new analysis comes as thousands of people from across Britain marched in London on June 18 to take part in the TUC's demonstration - culminating in a rally in Parliament Square - to demand government action on standstill wages and the soaring cost-of-living.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:

"Our brilliant key workers in the NHS helped get Britain through the pandemic. But many are now at breaking point - struggling to afford the basics and put food on the table. After a brutal decade of wage cuts and freezes overseen by successive Tory governments, NHS staff have been pushed to the brink by skyrocketing bills. Miserly pay offers will only be swallowed up by runaway prices. Any offer that falls below the cost of living will be a hammer blow to staff morale - especially as staff shortages continue to cripple vital services - and many NHS workers may choose to vote with their feet. It's time the government started to undo the damage of the past decade. That means giving all our key workers the decent pay rise they are owed."

Methodology:

Pay data comparing wages in 2010 and in 2022 is adjusted for inflation using CPI - comparing 2010 wages in real terms today (if they had kept up with the cost of living) with 2022 wages.

Pay data in 2022 compares NHS workers' pay if increased by the same as last year pay award (3%) to a pay rise in line with inflation (CPI)

The pay figures are for individual occupations at the top of NHS agenda for change pay band. At least half of Agenda for Change staff are at the top of the pay band.

Pay in the NHS for lower grades falls well below the real Living Wage, and - in April this year - for the lowest grades, fell below the national minimum wage in Northern Ireland and England, where employers had to apply supplementary payment to lift NHS pay rates over the legal minimums

The TUC used NHS digital data on the number of NHS staff (full time equivalent) and mean annual basic pay.

To show the impact an increase in spending power has on demand and on regional economies, a multiplier of 1.3 was applied to the loss of NHS staff earnings based on the midpoint of the multiplier range identified by the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) research in the last recession.

Article Index




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