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Swansea: Rail and PCS strikers rally together
Swansea Socialist Party members took solidarity to picket lines of two unions in three Swansea workforces on Saturday 29 August before joining an excellent rally of RMT and PCS members, coordinated by Swansea Trades Council.
RMT members in First Great Western (FGW) followed up their action on the previous Saturday with a three-day strike over the bank holiday weekend. There were pickets out at the engineering depot and at Swansea station. FGW wants to cut guards and buffet cars from trains.
Addressing the rally, RMT branch secretary Owen Herbert pointed out that these proposed changes threaten the safety of passengers and the quality of service received.
Socialist Party member Ruth Williams in offering her support to the strikers, stressed the importance of keeping guards and other staff on trains for disabled people for many of whom train travel could otherwise become inaccessible. As the new RMT banner puts it, "defend jobs, services and safety".
Supporters of the PCS pickets at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency call centre seemed to far outnumber those going in to work. This was the second of three days of action (the third is on Tuesday) for PCS members in DVLA over plans to reduce unsocial hours payments.
Call centre worker Steph Bennett told the rally that managers drafted in to cover the strike, who don't work on the phones, will be severely struggling during the action.
The National Waterfront Museum was shut because of the strike action by PCS members at seven sites of Amgueddfa Cymru / National Museums of Wales. Here management plan to get rid of unsocial hours payments altogether. PCS Amgueddfa Cymru branch secretary Peter Hill explained that this would mean an effective 25% pay cut for some workers. Like all the strikers in each dispute, Peter stressed the determination of the strikers to see the dispute through.
The Tories and bosses may have thought that they would be in for an easy ride after winning the general election but the determination shown by these and other strikers shows that they are mistaken. The votes for action in all three of these disputes would have met even the thresholds proposed in the Tories' new anti-strike bill.
Strikers drew strength from each other and from the pledges of support from trade unionists and others who had come to offer solidarity. Everybody felt that the best chance of winning in every dispute is if we all strike together.
Visteon pensioners' tribute to Swansea Trades Council
After the Swansea Trades Council strike rally Mike Gard, treasurer of the Swansea Visteon Pensioners Action Group, presented a cheque for £1405.27 to the officers of the Trades Council. Mike said:
"We have wound up our campaign fund and our VPAG officers agreed to donate the final amount to Swansea Trades Council in recognition of the support they gave us during our long campaign.
"Alec, representing Swansea Trades Council, attended almost every meeting over five years as well as joining us in solidarity on our numerous protests, lobbies and demos.
"Swansea Trades Council even put us at the head of their May Day march through the city centre one year which gave us a huge boost.
"We felt this donation would help the trades council to assist other workers in struggle in the same way as they helped us".
Plymouth - FGW strike
Over the busiest bank holiday weekend of the year, there were picket lines at stations all across the south west to as far as London, to oppose proposed job losses with the introduction of the new Hitachi high speed trains.
First Great Western's plan will see services downsized and jobs cut. This private company wants to see 'drivers closing the doors', suggesting that on-board staff won't be present.
It has also stated that it doesn't want a buffet car added to the new service.
On the picket line, one worker told me: "The railways are not run for the public, it's for the shareholders".
Another worker said, on the issue of ownership of the railways: "Renationalisation, it makes sense"; a view that the Socialist Party fully supports, along with the rail trade unions and a majority of the public.
Thomas Sloman, Plymouth Socialist Party
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 August 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.