Let's get ready to make the bosses pay!

20 September 2017

September began with railway workers staging simultaneous 24-hr strikes at Southern Rail, Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North - over changes in working conditions which will increase the workload for them and undermine passengers' safety.  Meanwhile, workers at another rail company - South Western Railway - are being balloted, over exactly the same issue.
    At Transport for London, 400 bus controllers will stage a second 24-hr strike this Friday against a below-inflation pay offer.  The following Thursday, Underground drivers will stop work for 24 hours, after a 9 to 1 ballot for strike action over working patterns caused by a shortage of staff.
    Meanwhile, 140,000 postal workers at Royal Mail are being balloted against the privatised company's attempt to force them into a new, lousy pension scheme, while cutting their working conditions and undermining their purchasing power, with a dismal 1.5% wage increase.  And, of course, there is still the 1% cap on wage increases in the NHS and other public sector organisations, against which some of the main unions have promised to ballot their members for strike action.

Payback time?

Could this mean that this is payback time for us, workers, at last?  It would certainly be high time!
    Across the whole economy, we have had our wages cut in real terms for a whole decade, since the beginning of the crisis, and things are now getting worse with the rising inflation caused by the Brexit chaos.  At the same time, working conditions, pensions, etc., are coming under attack everywhere, as employers strive to reduce their wage bills to the bare bone - not even because they're hard up, but because they want to boost profits and to placate the greed of their shareholders.
    So, yes it is about time the working class began to regain the ground lost over the past decade.  But whether it does, will defend entirely on its own determination to fight, and certainly not on the willingness of the union leaders to build up an effective fight back.
    In fact, each one of the disputes mentioned above illustrates the reasons why we should expect nothing from these union leaders.
    Take the disputes in the railways.  In fact, they are merely the continuation of the 30-odd days of strike already staged by workers in Southern Railway over the past months.  Not only have the three railway unions proved incapable of taking action jointly - despite the fact that this would have been an obvious way of strengthening the strikers' camp.  But they haven't even managed to coordinate the strikes across the various rail companies - despite the fact that they are all facing attacks on their conditions in the same way, in order to cut jobs.
    Likewise at TfL.  Why would it be impossible for all its workers to join ranks together - in the buses as well as well as on the Underground - in order to stop the drive against conditions and wages?  Why, except for the union leaders' reluctance to upset their cosy relations with the London mayor?
    Likewise too, at Royal Mail, where the strong language of the CWU leaders stands in stark contrast with their attempt to get the company to introduce a new pension scheme they have themselves designed to generate savings for the company on workers' backs!  Whatever next?

Taking our fate into our own hands

So, if payback time does come - and come it must - it will only be as a result of our own efforts to organise and unite our ranks in order to make the best of our collective strength.
    And yes, this is a matter of urgency.  Not only because we can no longer allow ourselves to be used as dispensable pawns by the profit sharks, but because, in addition, we cannot afford to wait for the next round of attacks which they are planning.
    Take Boris Johnson and his column in last week's Daily Torygraph.  By pulling out of his hat the worn-out lie that Brexit will make £350m/wk savings for the Treasury, Johnson did more than just expose the rift within May's government.  He demonstrated that his hard Brexit faction of the Tory party is quite prepared to go to any lengths in its nationalistic overbidding, regardless of the consequences this may have for the Brexit process and its impact on the economy.
    By the same token, Johnson and those like him are giving us a warning.  If we do not prepare ourselves to take them on, the capitalists and their politicians will use every trick in the book to make us pay for their Brexit, on top of the on-going crisis for which we are already paying.  So, yes, prepared we must be!