UK rail workers demand bosses rehire fired unionist

By Ólöf Andra Proppé
June 13, 2022

MANCHESTER, England — Rail bosses’ attempt to fire union fighter Peter Clifford here is being met by a strong response from workers and their union determined to win his job back.

A statement from Clifford’s Rail, Maritime and Transport union branch explains he was removed from his job as a train dispatcher for TransPennine Express by the subcontractor he works for, Carlisle Support Services, at the behest of TPE. Bosses allege this is due to Clifford’s “attitude and behaviour,” the union says, with no due process to allow Clifford to challenge the allegations. Carlisle Support Services says it will sack him unless he takes a different job at another business where CSS has a contract. He has worked at his current position for three years and has no disciplinary record.

“Why is this happening?” asks the union statement. “Is it because he is a well-known RMT union activist across the station?” Clifford has organized solidarity among rail workers for strikes by Chep pallet workers and bus drivers.

Eleven of the 14 Carlisle-employed dispatchers at the station joined a special union branch meeting May 19. It urged the union’s national executive to authorize a ballot for strike action in Clifford’s defense. Along with four other dispatchers, Clifford joined a May 22 picket line by TransPennine Express conductors at the station. They were part of a one-day walkout across northern England to protest working conditions.

The support Clifford is winning “is not surprising,” said station worker Kissle Cowie. Union branch officers are circulating the union’s statement, with over 700 people signing an online petition.

Up to half the workers hired at the station are employed by contractors. They face lower pay rates, worse conditions, and longer hours than workers employed by train operating companies, alongside the threat of summary dismissal.

Clifford is also well known as a distributor of the Militant. Last year he was the Communist League’s candidate for Greater Manchester mayor.