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Organise multi-industry coordination, don’t stop

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Socialist Voice interviewed RMT rail member Glenroy Watson. Glenroy is a London underground train driver and worked for over 40 years on London Transport, both on buses and tube. He believes that the rank-and-file activists must continue to have a high level of input into the decision-making process of the RMT Union.

Glenroy spoke, along with other union members from the RMT, RCN, Cub Transporti rail, Italy and Sud Education France, at an International Socialist League and Workers League zoom meeting called Lessons of the British Strike Wave.

Since the interview, it has been announced that RMT will strike on 13, 14, 16, 17, 23 and 24 December; the first phase of the nurses’ RCN union will strike on 15 December and 20 December. It is estimated that 300,000 nurses will strike. The postal workers, CWU union, will also strike on 1, 9, 11, 15, 23 and 24 December. SSTA and NASUWT school union members in Scotland will strike on 8 December. In the new year RMT will strike on 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 January and the EIS Scottish teachers union on 10 January. The UCU university workers took strike action in November and will continue in January or February. Others are also taking strike action, and the NEU teaching union ballot (640,000 members) closes in January.

If all strikes go ahead, over 750,000 strike days will occur in December and possibly over one million workers in January.

1 Is the RMT strike across the UK, and is it continuing in all parts of the UK?

Certainly, with RMT and the CWU.

2 Why are so many workers going on strike?

One reason is that during the lockdown, workers had to forgo any demands for a pay raise and the unions were not willing to strike during Covid19. But also, the conditions before Covid were unacceptable, so now we want them to be put right.

3 What restrictions are the Conservative government trying to place on strike actions?

This is an ongoing attack. First, they put a threshold percentage of those voting for us to pass before we can call action; that is, 50% of the membership must vote. We’ve lost some ballots, but in the main, we have been winning, so their plan to stop strikes has not worked. But they keep on trying.

4 What do you see as the next steps for the strike movement in the UK?

Multi-industry coordination. Find something common to all and not stop till the same objective is reached for all concerned. This will be very hard with the leadership we have, who, in some cases, cannot coordinate even in the same industry.

5 What gains has your union gained from striking so far?

In my sector, we have pushed them back on their pension attacks on the main line rail and exposed the government’s plan by beating the obstacle of re-balloting and making them look foolish. They will try new laws.

6 In many strikes in the USA, there has been a disconnect between the goals of the union bureaucracy and the needs of the rank-and-file. Is that the same today in the UK?

Not yet, but with strikes being called off for all sorts of reasons [including the Queen’s death and funeral SV], the only thing left is some random old lady’s feeling unwell.

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