United Kingdom: Transport Strike

Crédito de la imagen: Image:PA Wire/PA Images

By Julio Santana

On 21, 23 and 25 June, rail workers organised in the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will go on strike. Over 40,000 rail workers from fifteen train operating companies were called to vote for this measure. With a participation of 71% of the workforce, 89% voted in favour of the strike. In addition, over 10,000 London Underground employees decided to strike on June 21 in solidarity with the RMT workers. Although it is not confirmed, the signallers could also join.

Millions in subsidies, frozen salaries

After two years of frozen salaries, justifying themselves with the pandemic, companies refuse grant raises and intend to lay off personnel. They also use the excuse of “dropping ticket sales,” despite having received huge subsidies from the government. According to Andrew Haines, CEO of Network Rail, they amounted to 16 billion British Pounds in the last 2 years. (The Guardian 05/24/2022).

Deterioration of popular consumption

It should be added that, by British standards, the country is going through a brutal economic crisis, with 11% annual inflation, which, at 9% in April, was the highest figure in the last 40 years. Inflation especially affects popular consumption, in regards to: food, electricity, gas and gasoline, a fuel that registered the highest daily increase in 17 years. There is a paradox of effectively employed workers having to resort to the charity of food banks. A survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) indicates that, in 2021, one in ten workers did so, and so far in 2022, one in six has.

Brexit and after

To the crisis of the world capitalist economy, the consequences of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, it must be added that Brexit anticipated the country’s crisis, with an 11% drop in exports between 2018 and 2021. The departure of the United Kingdom of the European Union, led by the British bourgeoisie, has become a shackle for economic growth. They made the false promise of saving £300 million a day, which would be invested in the NHS. Actually, it all ended in 2021 with an increase in taxes on the wages of workers and the middle class.

A weak and aimless government

On June 6, Conservative MPs, those of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own party, deliberated on a vote of no confidence to remove him from his post. Out of 359 deputies, 148 voted against him, and today they are considering a vote strike against the prime minister´s future proposals. Parliamentarians are not so concerned about who should govern, but who should pay for the crisis.

The people in lockdown, Johnson partying

The vote also reflects the growing mistrust of a significant section of the British and foreign bourgeoisie. There are powerful people who no longer believe in a character like Boris Johnson, who was sanctioned for lying about his parties and drinking during the pandemic. All while society was in lockdown and health and service employees were being exploited, with more personal sacrifice demanded of them.

And the political “opposition”?

In the 18th century, the phrase “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” was coined, and that is how the Labor Party functions, pushed towards the “centre-right” or toward “liberal democracy.” There are other examples, such as Podemos in Spain and European social democracy. They present themselves as “leftists,” but they are born speculators who “melt” with their policy of class conciliation. And they have bureaucratic methods, such as expulsions and/or persecution of internal movements that hold more left wing positions, which they contemptuously call “radicals.”

With union endorsement

They not only use their political power but also their influence in labour unions. The UNITE union, with 6 million members, supports the Labor Party, and acts as a transmission belt for its electoralist vision and appeasement of any tendencies towards mobilisation. Turning this around will depend on the class struggle. In short, it is necessary to raise a new political and labour union leadership that promotes the victory of the struggles that today lack coordination and perspective.

If transport workers win, the working people win

With a government in crisis, a victory by the strike of rail workers, Tube workers, and if they join, the signallers, would favour a change of direction of the demobilisation and the apparent apathy created by the pandemic lockdown. All support for the strike! For the victory of the transport strike! Long live the unity of rail workers, Tube workers, signallers and the entire working class!