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THE arrival in July of both the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival give us as a trade union movement a chance to come together, take stock, enjoy a bit of downtime in good company and set our sights for the battles that lay ahead.
Britain is in chaos. I have been an active trade unionist for 40 years and there have been many dark and dangerous times over those four decades but I have never known anything quite like this.
We have a zombie government that can barely cobble together a majority, no matter how many bribes and bungs they hand out, a prime minister who makes a lame duck look fit and able and an election ongoing for her successor that is restricted to the votes of a few thousand xenophobes and racists who you wouldn’t trust with the TV remote let alone the future of our country.
Globally we are a laughing stock. Sucking up to the Trump regime while our own industries are left to rot and the rail and maritime sectors, in the nation that gave the railways and modern shipping to the world, are treated as little more than a cash-cow by speculative foreign investors who cannot believe their luck.
It’s shameful. While RMT members at the Royal Navy supplies lifeline, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, are forced to take industrial action to defend their standards of living for the want of little more than half a million quid, Chris Grayling has — and I believe this is the current Tory Party vernacular — “spaffed off” £85 million of taxpayers’ money on non-existent Brexit ferry contracts that we warned him all along were a scam.
Did Grayling listen to us? Of course he didn’t. This is a man who represents the thick end of a rotten government that is so dense light actually bends around it.
I can’t even remember how long we have been dealing with Grayling as transport secretary now but it seems like ages we have been wading through his serial cock-ups.
In any other walk of life such a specialist in abject failure would have been cut loose long ago, but in the chaos of Tory Britain 2019 he clings on with all the survival instincts of a cockroach riding out a nuclear war.
He also got his comeuppance when he took the decision to try and have a pop at our rail worker members over pay, telling the world to great fanfare last summer that he was planning to cap awards to an inferior and bogus inflation measure well short of the benchmark retail price index.
Well, I’m pleased to be able to report that right across Network Rail and the train operating companies we have smashed Grayling’s pay cap and delivered protection on wages, jobs and standards of living. That’s what we do.
But, as you would expect, we remain vigilant. Pensions in the rail industry are threatened as the government and its private contractors play our members into a row over meeting future obligations which has already seen Richard Branson and his Virgin/Stagecoach outfit banned from the franchise process, making a further nonsense of the whole broken system.
If it takes a national rail strike to protect pension rights and benefits that have been built up over many years then so be it.
There are many other areas where RMT organises where this trade union is fighting and winning and setting the standards for others to follow.
London Underground, taxis, buses and outsourced workers throughout the transport sector are all benefiting from RMT’s core principle that no-one gets left behind.
And now a general election is looming and as far I’m concerned it cannot come soon enough. The only result that can sweep away the wreckage that the Tories and their hangers-on have unleashed is the election of a government committed to turning the tide on the wasted years of profiteering and austerity. A government that puts welfare, workers’ rights and public ownership right at the top of the agenda.
RMT is proud of the work that our parliamentary group has done on wide-ranging issues from offshore worker safety to the “Fair Pay For RFA” campaign and resistance to the damaging and dangerous cuts being lined up for the Tube network under the guise of the “transformation programme.”
I am also proud of the work we have been doing with Jeremy Corbyn and his team to put the issue of buses as a public service back under the spotlight.
As always, there is so much more for us to do and we don’t underestimate the dangers that lie ahead but we have proved time and again that if we stand united and determined we can win. It’s in our hands.
Mick Cash is general secretary of RMT.
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