Railway Workers Strike for Safety and Rights.

The long running dispute by train drivers is continuing with a series of strikes.Train workers at five firms, in separate disputes over rail safety, have walked out and Southern Rail faces the 39th RMT strike today (Monday).

Rail, Maritime and Transport union members at Northern, Merseyrail, South Western Railway and Greater Anglia will strike on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. RMT members at Southern have also staged a 24-hour walkout today. The notorious South Western Rail is expected to be the most effected by the strikes. Even the Isle of Wight faces three days of disruption on “Island Line”, Three 24-hour walkouts by train staff taking place today (Monday), will see 450 South Western trains cancelled each day – a quarter of the service.

RMT said the disputes were over issues including the role of train guards and the extension of driver-only services.

Strikes on each of the affected days will run from 00.01 until 23.59 GMT.

Planned actions are part of their ongoing struggle for their rights and for public safety.

Support has been growing for the Rail Workers’ Actions, particularly since the massive increase in fares this year of 3.4% and further deterioration of whole parts of the rail service. The Prime Minister, herself, but on behalf of Government, has defended the fare increases. Many passengers are having to stop using the trains and some workers who needed to commute to work have said that they have been “tipped over the edge” by the fare rise this time.

The persistent intransigence of Railway monopoly franchises and their condemnation of the strikes, maintain the determination of and support for the workers. There are new calls for Public Control over the railways. Agreements have been reached in Scotland and Wales to keep guards on new modern trains. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady urged the Government to respond positively to union proposals.

Southern Rail and the Government are seeking to impose driver-only-operated trains. Some train operators are still failing to provide an acceptable service to passengers, with a high proportion of cancelled and delayed trains with overcrowding.There have been and continue to be protests pointing the finger at the company for its profiteering and at the Government for attacking public transport.

It is clear that the rights of Private Monopoly Rail Franchises are trumping Public Right. What is becoming clear is the question of who is in control? The issue of control over public transport should shift to the users and those who work in the transport industry, particularly rail. There are many who are calling for Public Ownership and Control. 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 ever angrier with the Government and the rail franchises. They want a decent, reliable and low-cost service. They want human personnel on trains, including guards.Their demands are sure to become louder and unified action will escalate in the coming months, as will the movement for control.

The concern of the drivers and conductors for the safety of passengers, if Southern Rail in particular, but other franchises too, were to impose its axing of train conductors, has been consistent in this dispute.

The concerns of the drivers and their union, has been for the safety of passengers if Southern were to impose its axing of train conductors, as well as for their own livelihoods. On top of this their dignity in being treated as disposable items and not as human beings and as workers, with their own knowledge, experience and values.

There is a necessity for change on the railways and the dispute highlights how the political issue poses itself. It is crystalllised in the struggle for Public Control because of the issuies of guaranteeing Rights. It has to be a railway that is ours, run for and controlled by us. What the dispute over safety reveals is the ensemble of human relations involved in its maintenance and its usage. It must become a pro-social product of society that is a service for the people.

What the Monopoly franchises and Government talk about is not only getting rid of guards but also desire complete driverless trains too in the longer term, as they have in some areas (including airports). So what place for the workers who have built it? A completely automated system, run by franchises or the State, cannot guarantee the safety and well being of human beings. What place for those who use it?

Public transport is a Right. It is a requirement for freedom of movement of human beings and a material and cultural need. In essence Public transport supports the social economy, essential services, effective distribution of the social product. In reality it would best serve society if it was free at the point of use so that there is little or no claim on workers’ wages through fares, adding also to the price of delivering goods. In this way the claims against any new value added to the social product would not go elsewhere but where it belongs, into the pockets of those workers who produce the wealth.

The Strike is becoming more political. The workers are having to take a political stand too for the wider good of the community. This is why it is becoming more necessary to support the actions of those who currently work in it. A safe and secure service has to be consistently sustained by maintaining the human presence and the human factor with conscious control over its running and operations. In order to achieve the aim, the struggle for proper Public Ownership and Control will continue above and beyond this strike.

Support the Strike, support the Railway Workers!

An injury to one is an injury to all !

Uphold the Dignity of Labour!

Fight for the Rights of All!

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