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I AM writing this from RMT biennial shipping general meeting in Douglas where we are celebrating the news that the Manx government is on the point of sealing a deal to bring the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry services to the mainland under public ownership.
That’s a measure of how we are winning the argument for public ownership and a reversal of the tide of privatisation, exploitation and profiteering. We still need clear assurances on jobs, pensions and conditions on a publicly owned steam packet operation, but the core message is that, if we can win the day on the Isle of Man, we have the momentum with us and, if we organise and push on, we can win it anywhere.
It has also blown away the argument that public ownership is somehow illegal and with a decision pending on the latest failed private experiment on the East Coast Main Line and rumours that a publicly owned Scotrail is now back in play, we have every incentive and encouragement that we could possibly need to ram our message home and seize the opportunities that have opened up for us as the political landscape shifts fundamentally.
It’s been a shot in the arm for the ongoing RMT fight for rail safety and in defence of the guards to form strategic alliances with passenger groups and disability campaigners. Their support and enthusiasm for our fight has helped sustain us through over two years of bitter struggle to put public safety before private profit. It’s a model of how trade unions need to reach out and make strong and lasting connections with those who are dependent on the services that our members provide.
It’s that community support that has forced the private train companies onto the back foot and exposed their grubby tactics and priorities to the very people tipping vast sums in eye-watering fares into their shareholders’ pockets.
Even key industry figures, no allies necessarily of RMT, have been forced to admit that the union’s public and social media campaigning has left the well-resourced train operators on the back foot and dependent on the self-styled Rail Delivery Group cartel, a bosses’ club with the sole objective of defending the twin pillars of private greed and a Tory government, to try to bend the media to their will.
So these are key messages that we are bringing to today’s march, messages that send out the signal that we are winning arguments, have popular policies and, with a united and determined movement putting the fuel in our tanks, we are already securing key victories, but there is much, much more to come.
RMT is proud to be marching alongside our brothers and sisters, health workers, teachers, firefighters and the rest of the working-class men and women who are the very fabric of our society and who find themselves under attack on a daily basis. We are also on the march to thank them for their support for our campaigns. These are fellow trade unionists who are heavily dependent on public transport and who, at a time when wages are being hammered down, see their fares going up through the roof with large chunks siphoned off in private profits.
We face a Tory government that is paralysed by its own weakness, ineptitude and internal divisions. The fact that Cabinet ministers like Chris Grayling, an unmatched specialist in failure, are untouchable regardless of their serial incompetence tells us everything that we need to know.
But they’ve been rumbled. Speak to the people paying through the nose to travel on rammed-out and unreliable trains, those whose lifeline bus services have been ripped to shreds and those unable to access services because there are no staff to provide disabled assistance. Those are the members of our community that now find that they have a political voice at last.
So be loud and proud on the march and thank you for all that you have done in solidarity with RMT members. Together we are unstoppable.
Mick Cash is general secretary of RMT.
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