Rail maintenance workers employed by the multinational company Alstom went on strike at depots serving the West Coast main line against a pay freeze imposed on workers who have been working throughout the pandemic. rs21 interviewed RMT members and officials Conor Price, Clayton Clive, Michelle Rodgers and Daren Ireland at the Manchester Longsight picket line.
Alstom, a multinational company operating worldwide, is poised to purchase Bombardier Transportation for €5.3bn. This price has been reduced by over €600m since February. Meanwhile, this year they announced a global pay freeze for workers, claiming they cannot afford the customary pay rise in line with inflation. This is despite the saving they are making on the acquisition of Bombardier, and a recently-secured £12.4m contract to work on ScotRail electric trains. The bottom level of managers were each given a £1500 bonus, leading RMT members to wonder what higher managers were given.
When RMT officials entered into negotiations with Alstom, management offered the workers one day more annual leave instead of addressing the real-terms pay cut. In response, workers across the country have begun a wave of strikes and more strike dates are expected unless management make a credible offer.
Michelle Rodgers, RMT president, said
Workers across the Piece are getting fed up with the pandemic being used to shaft them. It’s like a cloak that this government and organisations have put around themselves to tell workers that they don’t get anything – while the companies can keep taking profits.
Manchester South RMT said on twitter:
These members work tirelessly keeping entire fleets of trains moving. They do technical and demanding work at all hours so trains are fit to run. They did this continually throughout the pandemic. In an environment where working methods make social distancing sometimes impossible
The strike includes depots in Longsight in Manchester, Wembley in London, Rugby, Scotland and Liverpool. The RMT have already held two 24-hour strikes. Some UNITE members had joined RMT to take part in the strike and UNITE is currently balloting its members at Alstom to strike together. The announcement of more strike dates is expected. At a time when many workers in the public, private and third sectors are facing employers trying to drive down pay and conditions even where jobs are secure, a victory for these workers can set an important example.
At the bottom of this article you can find more information on what you can do to show solidarity with the strikes. Watch this space for updates on new strike dates, as the campaign is expected to escalate with joint industrial action by UNITE and RMT members in January.
Show solidarity with the strikes
Some actions you can take:
- Share the video interview to raise awareness of the strike
- Tweet your support to @rmt_man_south and @RMTunion
- Lobby your MP
- Contact Alstom directly and let them know what you think of their treatment of key workers
- Join a picket line in solidarity – more strike dates are expected