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Train strike: It’s Not Just About Pushing Buttons

The recent strikes by conductors and train drivers - members of the RMT and ASLEF unions - have been the biggest railway strikes in decades.

As a local, Brighton SolFed has been supporting the local striking members. Our support has been through the attendance of pickets, and organising a benefit gig; to raise money for the local strike fund, and, most importantly, to show solidarity and get workers across industries together.

If you only read media reports, this would seem to be a simple dispute regarding who merely pushes a button to open the train doors.

Really, this is about our safety.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is the company that owns the privatised Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink railway operators.

Ryanair Don't Care: week of international action

The Ryanair Don’t Care Campaign, supported by the Solidarity Federation in the UK and the IWA internationally, is calling for a Week of International Action against exploitation and recruitment scamming by Ryanair, starting on March 12.

Ryanair Don’t Care was started by John Foley after his daughter was sacked as a flight attendant mid-flight and abandoned abroad without any money. This led to the exposure of a cynical and highly exploitative recruitment scam by Ryanair.

T&P 1: Workmates: direct action workplace organising on the London Underground

In the late 1990s, plans to outsource track maintenance on the London Underground were being pushed through by the government. Workers at one depot responded by forming a new workplace group, both inside and outside the existing union, the RMT. This pamphlet charts the highs and lows of the Workmates collective, highlighting their successes and failures, their radically democratic organising method and their creative forms of direct action. We hope it can provide an inspiration to other workers frustrated with the limits of the existing workplace organisations.

A copy of the pamphlet costs £2 including postage and packaging (to UK, please get in touch for international or bulk orders).

Railroading

Since the Hatfield train crash, The call for re-nationalisation of Railtrack has become a stock demand on the left. It has to be said that this is not an unrealistic demand. But where would it lead us?

Safety, casualisation and profits: Off the Rails

Fresh from slaughtering in Iraq, the Labour Party can return once again to the enemy within - namely, the organised working class.

It is only a matter of time before we will see troops on the streets of Britain again - most likely over the firefighters strike. While the Government cannot employ troops against the guards strike on the railways, they are still doing all they can to defeat them. The guards are taking action as a result of rail bosses attempts to undermine their role by taking away the safety aspects of their jobs. The Government, through the strategic rail authority, have responded by guaranteeing to make up any losses the rail companies incur due to the strikes.

Boil-in-the-bag drivers

The recent train drivers union (ASLEF) leadership election was a shock to many rail union activists.

It had been thought that the current leader, Mick Rix would walk it, so he hardly bothered to campaign. Shaun Brady was seen as a right-wing Neanderthal no-hoper who had only managed to gain the support of a handful of branches compared with Rix, who had the backing of over 80 branches. While Rix sat on his backside, Brady got out and about with his populist arguments, ranging from antipolitical-correctness to opposition to asylum seekers.

Missing the last train

If you want an example of how not to organise at work, look no further than ASLEF, the train drivers' union.

In Cat8, we reported on the election of Shaun Brady as leader – since then he has threatened to sack staff working at ASLEF head office and replace them with non-union labour. Why? Because they had voted to strike over bullying by none other than Brady himself. It is all part of the bitter ASLEF turf war between the “left” faction led by ex-leader Brian Rix and Brady's “right” faction (actually orchestrated by Adams).

Striking back

On train catering staff based at Manchester Piccadilly Train Station are taking strike action in protest at management's attempt to impose new rosters.

The catering staff, employed by Virgin West Coast, currently work a 14-hour shift in return for extra days off. Management plan to impose an 8-hour shift pattern, which will not only mean that on board catering staff will lose around 60 free days per year, it will also lead to significant job losses. At Wolverhampton, where the shift patterns were recently brought in, management have begun to recruit part-time staff, as the first step in the casualisation of the on board catering service on the whole of the West Coast Main line.

Safety on the railways?

Health and safety campaigners have welcomed the jailing of a rail boss, found guilty of killing four maintenance workers who died when a runaway wagon ploughed into them. Mark Connell, 44, had deliberately dismantled the brakes on two of his wagons in order to save money.

He received a nine year sentence for each of the four counts of manslaughter, to run concurrently. However the jailing of Connell, though welcome, is perhaps not quite the victory it first seems. As the construction giant Carillion plc, who subcontracted Connell to carry out the work, and as such should take some of the blame, was never prosecuted.

Cleaning up on the tube

London tube cleaners have won crucial pay increases from cleaning companies, with their £5.50 an hour poverty wages being brought up to £7.45.

Cleaners on Metronet contracts were granted the ‘ London living wage’ in July through a wider initiative whilst those working for ISS (contracted by Tubelines) won a staggered pay rise in pre-strike negotiations in August.

With the 48hour RMT strike in June/July and the planned three day strike in August forcing the hand of ISS, the cleaners have demonstrated their strength and gained from it. However, their fight is far from over with the strike committee continuing to meet in pursuit of unmet demands - more holidays, better sick pay, a decent pension and an end to the scandal of ‘third party sackings’.

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