Rail: The RMT suffers two closures for the price of a day of strike

Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pay His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue – and what it means for you .

Say what you will about British productivity, but one-day rail strikes have never paid off as they have this fall. You can find proof of this at London Waterloo station.

“Strike action Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October,” warn posters posted at the UK’s busiest rail terminus. “Only travel when absolutely necessary.”

The RMT union, which is calling 40,000 workers to strike for each of the next two Saturdays, will welcome this two-for-one deal.

The main railway union has pledged to “effectively bring the railway to a standstill” by going on strike. And now he appears to be getting two effective stoppages, destroying the travel plans of millions, for the loss of a single day’s pay.

These 24-hour outings mean late teams will not connect for Saturday night shifts, leaving signal systems unmanned and train movements incomplete when play resumes on Sunday.

In addition, train drivers belonging to Aslef and working for a dozen railway companies will go on strike on October 1 and 5 (members of a 13th train operator, East Midlands Railway, joining them on October 5). And to top it off, on October 10, RMT members working for ScotRail will leave.

As a result, rail travelers can be sure of avoiding strike-hit travel for just four of the first 10 days next month. Each strike day (or post-strike day) costs the industry tens of millions of pounds in lost or refunded ticket sales.

The Rail Delivery Group, representing rail operators, says: “Revenues are at 80% of pre-pandemic levels. These strikes will once again be a huge hindrance to the very passengers the industry needs to sustain its recovery. »

Take a closer look, however, at the RMT rationale for the ScotRail strike, and you begin to see a possible way forward. The stoppage was called after the union rejected a 5% wage offer.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “ScotRail knows this offer is not good enough and must take into account the escalating cost of living crisis. Our members refuse to be impoverished and will exercise their industrial strength to let ScotRail know that they won’t rest until they get paid what they deserve.

This message is for the Scottish Government, which owns ScotRail, but it is also for Britain’s new Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan – who is challenged to settle the most bitter railway dispute in four decades .

As Mr. Lynch and the railroad companies know very well, this is about more than just a pay dispute. It’s a political fight with the far-right government now in charge in Westminster.

Fortunately, on one of the key issues of our times, Brexit, Ms Trevelyan and the unions couldn’t be closer. All of them campaigned tirelessly and successfully to leave the European Union.

“Instead of protecting jobs and investment, EU austerity drives UK austerity,” was a claim during the Leave campaign (made by the RMT, although it could also have been the Ms Trevelyan’s European research group).

A combination of this Brexit obligation and the chancellor removing any limits on government spending or borrowing could help them get a deal sooner rather than later, but not soon enough to avoid more rail chaos at the weekend. next.

Another shake on the magic money tree can make up for the £2billion annual drop in fares revenue since the coronavirus pandemic and, crucially, fund wage rewards in line with inflation.

The eventual solution will, of course, have to be dressed up: a 4% or 5% salary increase will come with a few extra percentage points negotiated for, you guessed it, “productivity”.

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