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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 February 2009

Tyneside Metro: Workers' action to stop privatisation

TO A packed meeting of over 150 people last week, the RMT's general secretary Bob Crow announced that Tyneside Metro workers are to be balloted for strike action over the threat to jobs, pensions and conditions posed by privatisation plans. The strike call was met with great enthusiasm.

Elaine Brunskill

Across Tyne and Wear people are outraged at the prospect of Metro privatisation. They understand that the privateers' main concern will be to put money into the pockets of shareholders and this will inevitably lead to increased fares, with safety issues becoming a secondary consideration.

Bob Crow passionately outlined how the RMT is preparing to fight to ensure Metro workers' terms and conditions remain, including for new starters. He correctly pointed out that if a two-tier system with worse conditions for new starters happens, it would inevitably lead to "jealousy and bitterness". He also pointed out the RMT would be demanding that the Metro workers pension scheme is safeguarded.

In making these demands Bob Crow acknowledged that: "Some say we're going for the sky: I say we're going for the minimum."

At the meeting Bob Crow commented that the economic downturn, when many workers are fearful of losing their jobs, may not be the ideal time to ballot for industrial action. However, he was applauded when he said there is "one thing more contagious than fear - courage!"

Unfortunately, in stark contrast to the RMT leadership - who gave confidence to their members that this is a battle that could be won - invited Unison leaders (who also represent Metro workers) did not even turn up for the meeting. After the meeting we spoke to Unison members who work on the Metro and they were clearly bitterly disappointed by this.

Amongst a growing number of Metro workers, activists in the Keep the Metro Public campaign and the travelling public there is growing anger at the role of New Labour which has been instrumental in pushing these plans forward. Bob Crow put forward that elected representatives who are not listening to the views of ordinary workers should be held accountable and challenged, saying: "MPs and councillors - we'll have to put people up [against them] in some shape or form."

The short-listed privateers are: Hong Kong's MTR Corporation; Germany's DB Regio; Dutch-based Serco-Ned Railways; alongside an in-house bid.

These companies cannot be trusted as they will put their own interests before those of the people of Tyne and Wear and the Metro workforce. All three would be inferior to the present publicly owned Metro, which has won awards for being Britain's most punctual railway. The Metro is also Britain's last publicly owned railway.

Our Socialist Party leaflet was well received, with some workers asking for extra copies to distribute at work.

It called for:

Keep Metro Public campaign email or phone 0191 456 1308.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 11 February 2009:

Bankers' bonuses - daylight robbery!

Vendetta continues against socialist fighter

JCB owner - still shovelling in the cash

Construction workers

Lindsey oil refinery strike: Workers score important victory

Construction workers' battle to defend jobs and conditions

Welcome to the JIB!

Motherwell Bridge bosses declare war on striking workers

Stop GSK job cuts

Socialist Party youth and students

Defend youth services

College students - keen to fight back

Save Charlotte Turner school!

Socialist Party campaigns

Tyneside Metro: Workers' action to stop privatisation

Carbon trading crisis creates bonanza for polluting firms

Exeter: Mobilising to stop the far right

Fast news

Car workers

Fight for jobs at Ford

Car industry in crisis - national meeting

Socialist Party workplace news

Wirral cuts: We need a new party

Victory for Salford Unison

Defend jobs at Salford University

Usdaw presidential election

Protest against the Unison witch-hunt

Greenwich council: An injury to one is an injury to all

International socialist news and analysis

Nationalise Waterford Crystal!

United Socialist Party members remanded on trumped-up charges

Socialist Party review

Slumdog Millionaire


Reclaim the game


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