Injunction on rail signalers strike

It has just been announced that the High Court has slapped an injunction on the proposed strike by railway signal workers. The action was due to take place on Tuesday 6th April alongside action by fellow Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members in rail maintainance and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) walk out of supervisors. This attack on trade union rights by the courts will be familiar to BA workers, especially cabin crew. The following is an extract from a leaflet written by members of the Socialist Party in the RMT dealing with the issue of court interference in strike action.

We will carry a longer piece on the anti-trade union laws and the rail signallers strike in the next few days.

RMT members on network rail have voted overwhelmingly against the plans of the rail bosses to carry through cuts in jobs which threaten the return of “another Hatfield or Potters Bar rail crashes” according to Bob Crow general secretary of the RMT. The rail strikes come at a heightened period of tension between the bosses and the workers in many parts of the economy. The rail workers deserve and need the support of all trade unionists in their struggle to keep a safe rail system

Cabin crew in British Airways have already taken seven days of strike action. And are planning more action.

200,000 Civil Servants, members of the PCS union have taken 3 days of national strike action agonist the government removal of their redundancy scheme. The government are doing this in preparation for a massive programme of job cuts across the public sector whichever government gets into power.

These attacks on workers jobs, conditions and living standards is a direct result of the economic crisis brought about by the collapse of the banks. The government has poured billions into the banks and they have said thanks very much and continued to pay out millions in bonuses to the very bosses who brought about the crisis in the first place.

Now all the main parties say the crisis has to be paid for by ordinary workers. They are taking advantage at the same time of growing unemployment to weaken the trade unions by these attacks backed up throughout this by the capitalist courts.

The rail unions are in a powerful position to defend their members but it will take a political answer as well.

In the general election all the main parties will be singing from the same hymn sheet of cuts and attacks on workers. All the main parties will oppose the unions organising strike action in defence of their members. That is why it is high time that those unions who give millions to then Labour Party drew the lesson that this money is wasted.

Now is the time for the unions to build a new mass party that will support workers not attack them. The Bob Crow is supporting candidates from the trade union and socialist movement, alongside leading individuals in the PCS, POA and others. Organised around the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), it will be standing 50 plus candidates in this election. It will be the only electoral alternative that will give all-out support to the rail workers struggle.

At the same time rail signal workers mainly in South Wales and East London have also voted to strike over the attempt by rail network to introduce new rostering duties which will increase the working week for signallers. The bosses also want to end the well established seniority principle that applies when jobs become available in the signals areas.

Despite getting a 54% majority for strike action and a 77% majority for action short of strike action on 71% turnout the bosses are once again going to the court claiming “balloting irregularities”.

What a load of tosh. The threat of court action to stop workers exercising their democratic right to take strike action must be answered decisively by the trade union movement.

The legal dice is loaded in favour of the bosses and friendly pro boss judges will always come out on their side no matter how meticulously the union is in sending out ballot papers to its members. The courts stopped the BA strike at Christmas despite a huge majority of over 90% voting in favour of strike action.

This cannot go on! Our democratic rights should not be overturned on the whim of one high court judge.

The trade unions have fought for these democratic rights including the right to withdraw our labour since the 19th century.

We say that if the judges back the bosses and declare our ballot illegal and this means that our action is delayed then this will only help the bosses to prepare to beat our strike even more. That is what the BA bosses did when the cabin crew strike was delayed. The BA management have been busy organizing an army of scabs to undermine their action; the rail network bosses could try to do the same as well, including bringing in outside scabs.

The Union in that case as well as fighting in the courts against the bosses should be prepared if necessary to defy any injunction if it means that the injunction would seriously damage the chances of winning.

If the bosses and the courts then try to attack the union and its finances then the RMT should call on all its members across the country to come out in defence of democratic rights and in defence of the very existence of the union itself. We should also demand that other unions come to our aid as well.

At the time of writing the rail bosses have not yet gone to court to try to stop the rail maintenance workers strike going ahead. This is probably because the strike is over rail safety as the bosses try to get rid of 1500 maintenance jobs but also because they have seen the huge majority for strike action of 77% in favour of strike action and 89% in favour of action short of a strike.

This strike is clearly seen by many as a real attempt by the union to keep safety as a high priority on the rail network. It is the bosses, who in the mad chase for profits, is endangering the workers and passengers. Even the government appointed Rail Regulator agrees that the proposed job cuts threaten rail safety.

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