Train drivers are once again taking strike action. Support is growing, particularly since the massive increase in fares and further deterioration of the Southern Rail franchise’s service. Also we have the government and transport minister, Grayling’s intransigence and condemnation of the strike added to the matter. Jeremy Corbyn too has indicated that he would join pickets and called for public ownership of Southern Rail.
Southern Rail and the government are seeking to impose driver-only-operated trains. Southern Rail has become notorious above many other privatised train operators in failing to provide an acceptable service to passengers, with a high proportion of cancelled and delayed trains with overcrowding.
The concern of the drivers and conductors for the safety of passengers if Southern were to impose its axing of train conductors has been consistent in this dispute.
People are dismissing the propaganda branding the drivers and conductors as holding the public to ransom. The travelling public is well aware of how Southern claims its share of added value produced by its workers. Also how it absolves itself of responsibility to provide a reliable and acceptable service.
There have been and continue to be protests pointing the finger at Southern for its profiteering and at the government for its neo-liberal agenda in attacking public transport.
It is clear that the rights of the profiteering private rail franchise are trumping public right. What is becoming clear is that it is who controls? The issue of control over public transport should shift to the users and those that work in the transport industry, particularly rail. There are many who are calling for public ownership and control such as RMT and Jeremy Corbyn. The independent voice of the working class is in the forefront of the demand for control.
The workers, their unions and their political representatives along with passengers are getting angrier with the government and the rail franchises. They want a decent, reliable and low cost service as there are in other countries. Therefore the demands are sure to become louder and unified action will surely escalate in the coming months, as will the movement for control.
It is political action by the government supporting Southern Rail that has caused this trade dispute. The call to train operating companies to act collectively against unions will only lead to further unrest and by fanning the flames of strife.
Justice is on the side of the workers and their demands must be met. Independent workers call on everyone to support the struggle of Southern workers in defending the safety of passengers and in defence of their livelihoods and develop the movement for workers’ control.