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IT IS striking to note that our forebears, who first assembled in Manchester in the interests of organised labour 150 years ago, would have recognised much that is on the agenda before us over the next few days.
Nothing more so than our continuing battle to protect and enhance the standards of living of the working class.
The message today is the same as it always was — if you want decent pay and working conditions, then come together as a collective within the democratic framework of a fighting, militant trade union.
It’s never easy, and is never going to be, but the alternative is barbarism and the law of the jungle.
RMT members have been engaged in an industrial campaign for well over two years over the fundamental issue of keeping the guard on our trains.
A battle that started on Southern Rail — and where the fight still goes on today in Britain’s longest-running industrial dispute — spread to a number of other train operating companies and although we have chalked up a number of significant victories along the way, we still have hard-nosed companies like Northern and South Western Railway where we need your continued support.
I would appeal to you to ask your union branch, region or national organisation to consider making a donation to the guards’ dispute funds. You can call us on 0800 376 3706 for details or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RMT members who have been engaged in these disputes are grateful for all the messages of support, the practical and financial assistance and the visits to the picket lines.
You have been instrumental in sustaining us through over two years of struggle and you can play a crucial part in getting us across the line in the remaining disputes.
We now know that we face another, wider challenge to the rail workforce with the threat from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to impose a CPI pay cap right across the board.
Not only would that move potentially hit the train companies but it would roll out across Network Rail and quite possibly London Underground as well.
RMT has made it clear that any attempt to hack back our members’ standards of living will be met by a campaign of resistance across the rail industry, including the use of industrial action.
It is a nonsense to try to peg pay to CPI, a measure that doesn’t even include the cost of a roof over your head, and we have calculated that a CPI cap would have cost our members thousands of pounds just over the past five years alone.
At this year’s TUC we will be distributing publicity materials for our “Smash Grayling’s Pay Cap” campaign and we hope that you will give us your full support.
If he thinks that our members are going to pay the price for his serial mismanagement and gross incompetence then he’s got another think coming.
We will also be promoting our SOS2020 campaign in defence of jobs, pay and training in the shipping industry and you will find materials for that on the RMT stand and you can find out more about how you can help on our website www.rmt.org.uk.
So we can look forward with confidence from this year’s TUC. We have a rotten Tory government lurching from crisis to crisis and a Labour Party led from the front by Jeremy Corbyn advocating a genuine socialist alternative to the years of austerity, greed and privatisation.
If we stand united and resolute, with 150 years of history under our belts, our best days are still to come.
Mick Cash is general secretary of RMT.
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