Katie Leslie, BEIS group activist
On Thursday lunchtime myself and other PCS members across Whitehall joined together to stand in solidarity with rail workers, who are the first in the crosshairs of this rabidly right wing government. As a largely white upper class Tory Government enjoy the gravy train in Parliament, they were announcing some of the most draconic anti trade union laws. Trade unionists have fought and died for our rights, and we will need to continue fighting against these attacks and for an actual right to strike.
The Queen’s speech contained a new Bill that would curtail the fundamental freedom for rail workers to withdraw their labour. A last resort that workers only ever use in despair at rogue employers. Over the years the RMT in particular have irked the rich, who think they have some right to punch their way onto a tube to get to work every day to make millions while not giving a hoot about the rail workers. Strikes are a minor disruption to our lives that undoubtedly have saved lives over the years. If, like me, you have stood waiting for a tube in rush hour, and watched as people push and shove in the most dangerous manner, while a patient but firm platform worker keeps them safe and ensures we don’t all have to see their brains splattered across the platform, you will know how important our rail workers are. Whether they are the drivers, the ticket office or the platform first responders. This was even more acute for Londoners on 7/7 when it was rail workers who were the first responders, saving lives.
But apparently the fact they deign to keep us safe and fight for good working conditions and pay is far too much for this government. They are now seeking to take away the fundamental right to strike from them. This is the next step in the last 40 years of trade union attacks, which already places us bottom of European countries in the worldwide rankings, and heading lower as most other countries are striving to improve their standing. How much longer will it take for us to be ranked alongside Colombia – the most dangerous place on earth to be a trade unionist?
Not only should we be worried due to the old adage of “first they came for…”, but also rail workers do a vital job and keep us safe. Curtailing their ability to hold private companies, with more interest in profit than safety, to account is crucial for all of us. Our railways and our rail workers are part of tackling the climate emergency. These are green jobs, and they must be safe jobs in places safe for all of us. That is why myself and others pledged we would stand shoulder to shoulder with our RMT comrades and we will win.