MANCHESTER, England — “On our 16th day of action fighting for a pay rise I want to extend support to all the other unions that are in this fight,” train conductor Clayton Clive told a Jan. 7 solidarity rally of 300 in the city center here. Clive is secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Manchester Piccadilly train station.
For months the RMT has held one-day strikes across the country. Rail workers have been joined on picket lines by fellow trade unionists over many days, including a delegation from the Fire Brigade Union who are planning strike action. During their last four strike days, more than 100 rail workers signed a message of support to nurses and health workers. Members of the Royal College of Nurses struck for the first time in their union’s history last month and again, with ambulance workers, on Jan. 18.
Eight rail workers from France, members of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), joined the RMT picket at London’s Euston train station Jan. 7, bringing a donation of 2,000 euros ($2,160) collected from co-workers.
“We’re telling the RMT members they’re not alone,” CGT member Martin Bolle-Reddat told the Militant.
Solidarity is key for sustaining the work stoppages that continue throughout the U.K. in the face of a bosses’ drive to deepen attacks on workers. The government is preparing a bill that would make many of the recent union actions illegal in the future. “No amount of laws will stop us striking,” Clive told the Manchester rally.
Health Secretary Steven Barclay says the government will only agree to raise nurses’ pay if their union agrees to “efficiencies,” a code word for speedup and job cuts. Rail bosses are also demanding unions accept changes to conditions, including an end to the union’s veto over train drivers’ work schedules.
An important extension of union action came when 1,000 contract cleaners organized by the RMT struck Dec. 31. They demanded a raise to 15 pounds an hour ($18), sick pay and other measures against the divisive two-tier conditions facing many rail workers. “Contractors make up about a third of our union branch membership,” Clive said.
Jonathan Silberman in London contributed to this article.