Saturday 20 August 2022

RTUC support RMT & TSSA pickets at Reading and Oxford

RMT picket line, Reading Station, 18 August

On 18 and 20 August 2022, the RMT and TSSA took coordinated strike action, with Reading Trades Union Council showing support at Oxford and Reading stations and Reading Maintenance Depot.

Oxford Station picket line - TSSA & RMT plus solidarity, 20 August

The national action involved staff at manifold train operating companies, including Chiltern, Crosscountry, Great Western and South Western in Oxford and Reading, as well as Network Rail.

Suzanne Quainton addresses the Oxford Station rally, 20 August

Reading pickets included Colin Masters (RMT) from RTUC.

Oxford Station picket line rally, 20 August

In Oxford, RTUC delegates, John Partington (TSSA) and Suzanne Quainton (RMT) were active participants in the Oxford & District Trades Union Council solidarity rally on 20 August. The rally took place from 11:00 and 13:00 and included speakers from Chipping Norton Labour Party, the CWU, NASUWT, Oxford & District Labour Party, Oxford & District Trades Union Council, the RMT, TSSA and Unite and included a musical interlude led by the Didcot Red Kites.

Saturday 13 August 2022

RTUC supports ASLEF strike action in Reading and Oxford

ASLEF picket line at Reading Station, 30 July

On 30 July and 13 August 2022, Reading Trades Union Council, represented by Neil Adams (Unite), John Gillman (Unite), Ali McNamara (NEU), Ray Parkes (Unite Community), John Partington (TSSA), Suzanne Quainton (RMT) and Chris Reilly (RMT), attended the ASLEF picket lines at Reading and Oxford Railway Stations to show their support for the striking train drivers.

The train drivers' dispute is with Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains, with the focus on pay. The drivers have not had a pay increase since 2019 and many suffered furloughed pay reductions during the COVID19 pandemic. In recent years, the train operators have introduced modernisation programmes which have increased driver productivity - but the drivers have seen no financial reward for these improvements.

NEU solidarity with the ASLEF strikers, 30 July

The door is open for fresh talks between the trade union and the employers.

RTUC's John Partington (4th left, TSSA) and Suzanne
Quainton (3rd right, RMT) show solidarity, 30 July

John Partington (left) supports the Oxford & District TUC banner, 13 August

Monday 1 August 2022

Solidarity with the CWU strike at BT Openreach!

Neil Adams (Unite) of the Reading Trades Union Council joined the CWU picket line at BT Openreach in Bracknell on 1 August 2022 where engineers and call centre workers walked out between 08:00 and 12:00 - the second day of strike action in the past week.

Across the country, 400 pickets were established in an action which is seeking a pay increase to counter the cost of inflation whilst also sharing the profits of BT Group following the announcement of a further £400m profit in the first quarter, on top of the £1.3bn achieved in the last financial year.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

RTUC Supports RMT Pickets in Reading and Oxford

On 21, 23 and 25 June and 27 July 2022, the Reading Trades Union Council stood shoulder to shoulder with the striking RMT workers on picket lines at Reading Station, Reading Maintenance Depot and Oxford Station. Their role as key workers, keeping the supermarkets stocked and getting medical staff to hospitals, has been forgotten by the government-owned employer, Network Rail. Ministers prefer denigration and insult over fairness and open dialogue to resolve the dispute with the railway workers.

RMT picket line at Reading Railway Station, 21 June

While the retail price index stands at 12% - with the likelihood of further increases to come - Network Rail initially offered a 2% pay rise plus non-pensionable 0.5% lump sums in September and November, but only in exchange for 'efficiencies'. With the details of the company's 'Modernising Maintenance' revealed on 1 July, major staff reductions and new ways of working were proposed and so the pay dispute has been augmented by a fight by the trade unions to prevent compulsory redundancies.

RMT picket line outside Oxford Railway Station, 21 June

In Reading, Neil Adams (Unite), John Gillman (Unite), Kevin Jackson (Unison), Colin Masters (RMT), Ali McNamara (NEU), Danny McNamara (Unite Community), John Oversby (UCU), James Parker (Unite Community) and Chris Reilly (RMT) represented RTUC on the picket, while in Oxford, John Partington (TSSA) and Suzanne Quainton (the RMT picket organiser) attended alongside representatives of Oxford & District Trades Union Council and other groups.

RMT picket line at Reading Railway Station, 21 June

The local and national media covered both Reading's and Oxford's industrial action, with Neil Adams reporting on the Socialist Party website: "We spoke with the pickets about the need to unite the action with other unions and everyone agreed this is needed. We distributed NSSN conference leaflets and invited the pickets to our Socialist Party public meeting tonight. There was enthusiasm for our ideas". ITV Meridian also covered the local actions here.

TSSA members flank the RMT picket organiser in solidarity, 21 June

On 21 June, BBC Radio Oxford broadcast a brief interview with John Partington, who outlined some of the justifications for the strike action. The excerpt can be heard here:

Solidarity support from across the left continued in significant numbers across the three strike days as the following gallery of photographs shows:

NEU members show solidarity at Reading Station, 23 June

Oxford Station picket line, 23 June

The picket at Reading Station was filmed on the morning of 23 June:

Oxford Station picket, 25 June

TUSC & Socialist Party solidarity at Oxford Station, 25 June

TSSA, RMT & ASLEF (x2) members in solidarity at Oxford Station, 25 June

John Oversby (UCU, right) joining RMT picketers, Reading Station, 25 June

The four days of industrial action by the RMT represented a shot across the bow of the employer, Network Rail. It is now for Network Rail - if they can loosen the restrains seemingly imposed by the government - to sit down with the trade unions (RMT, TSSA and Unite) and make a reasonable pay offer, provide guarantees on job security and address concerns which have been raised over health and safety. Otherwise - and with the TSSA and ASLEF also taking strike action - the next round of action will intensify the pressure and demonstrate the anger and frustration which years of belt-tightening without reward is provoking in railway workers.

Ali (NEU) and Danny McNamara (Unite Community) at Reading Station, 27 July

John Partington (2nd left, TSSA) at Oxford Station, 27 July

Chris Reilly (left, RMT) at Reading Station, 27 July

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Oxfordshire Solidarity Rally with Striking Workers

Inspired by the emerging battle for improved pay, conditions and safety by the rail unions, Oxford & District Trades Union Council organised the Oxfordshire Solidarity Rally with Striking Workers on 20 July 2022 at Rose Hill Community Centre, Oxford.

Setting up the Banners of Solidarity!

Following a call for support across the local and regional labour movement, volunteers arrived with banners, flags and posters from Botley & District Labour Party, Chipping Norton Labour Party, CWU South Central Postal Branch, Oxford & District Labour Party, Oxford & District Labour Women, Oxford & District National Union of Journalists, Oxford & District Trades Union Council, Oxfordshire Health Unison, Oxfordshire National Education Union, RMT Reading Branch and TSSA North London (Network Rail) Branch.

The Panel: John Partington (TSSA), Keith Hamilton (CWU), Bill MacKeith
(ODTUC), Brendan Kelly, Suzanne Quainton and Colin Masters (all RMT)

The evening was ably chaired by Bill McKeith, a Vice-President of ODTUC, with Suzanne Quainton (RMT), John Partington (TSSA), Colin Masters (RMT), Keith Hamilton (CWU) and Brendan Kelly, the keynote speaker as Wales & South West Organiser for the RMT. Three of the speakers were delegates to Reading Trades Union Council.

Suzanne Quainton (RMT Reading Branch)

Suzanne gave a personal account of the hardships faced by Revenue Protection staff on the railway during the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts on passengers of proposed continued reductions in staffed ticket offices and the economic challenges faced by staff due to below-inflation pay offers (i.e., pay cuts).

John Partington (TSSA North London Branch)

John gave an overview of rail industry restructuring, proposed headcount reductions and their impacts on the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and passengers alike. He advocated the rail unions coordinating their industrial action and called on the room to make the connection between the rail industry disputes and the cost of living crisis and attacks on workers' safety in all sectors.

Colin Masters (RMT Reading Branch Assistant Secretary)

Colin's speech segued nicely with John's, relating aspects of John's high level safety concerns with the reality of staff at the chalk face, being asked to maintain rail infrastructure with reduced numbers, greater 'flexibility' and a net reduction in pay. He spoke of train operating staff facing the loss of shift supplements, working more unsociable hours without compensatory payments.

Keith and Brendan rounded the speeches off, drawing parallels across the labour market, promoting solidarity action by members of other unions and highlighting the importance of attending the forthcoming pickets when the RMT, CWU, TSSA, ASLEF and other unions take industrial action.

Messages of solidarity were also read out from the Oxford Unite Health Branch and the Socialist Health Association, while Cllr Steve Akers (CNLP), Cllr Paula Dunne (ODLP), Cllr Edward Mundy (ODLP / CWU), Cllr Jabu Nala-Hartley (ODLP) and several others spoke from the floor. Details of the three ODLP councillors' previous solidarity with the TSSA's dispute can be found here.

The event followed with a collection of £210 which will be divided across the hardship funds of the striking unions.

A collection of speeches and messages from the Oxfordshire Solidarity Rally is being prepared for publication by ODTUC under the editorship of Bill McKeith. To obtain copies, please email the ODLP Secretary here.

The commemorative booklet

Sunday 17 July 2022

RTUC at Tolpuddle 2022

David McMullen (right, GMB)

Over the weekend of 15 to 17 July 2022, Reading Trades Union Council showed solidarity with comrades across the workers' movement by attending the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival. Kevin Brandstatter (GMB), Nikki Dancey (GMB), James Denny (RMT), Keith Jerrome (Unite), Dave McMullen (GMB) and John Partington (TSSA) represented their respective trades unions and the RTUC.

John Partington (right, TSSA)

On the Saturday, Mick Lynch, RMT General Secretary, addressed enthusiastic supporters about the recent and ongoing strikes across the rail industry.

Kevin Brandstatter (GMB)

On the Sunday, the procession through Tolpuddle Village was impressive by its strength of numbers, demonstrating that two years of truncated, virtual festivals had done nothing to dampen enthusiasm.

RTUC proudly affiliated to the Shrewsbury Campaign

The key speakers on Sunday included Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, who promised support for a summer of industrial action, and Frances O'Grady, giving her final speech to Tolpuddle as TUC General Secretary, while Robb Johnson and Billy Bragg provided entertainment from the main stage.

Frances O'Grady, outgoing TUC General Secretary

There was plenty of opportunity to expand knowledge on key current issues as well as learn from past struggles to advance present campaigns. The Martyrs' Marquee hosted speakers and entertainers the whole weekend while stalls of books, pamphlets, leaflets and other information filled the space. Radical Films were projected in the mobile cinema and trade union stalls facilitated sharing of information and focal points for members of the respective unions. And the Tolpuddle History School ran throughout the festival.

James Denny (right, RMT)

The weekend was great preparation for - to quote Mick Lynch - a "Sizzling Summer of Solidarity"! Billy also sent us off with a message to the fascists who might try to get in our way!

Saturday 18 June 2022

RTUC joins the national march and rally to say: "We Demand Better"

On 18 June 2022 at 11:00, thousands - and estimates range from 50,000 to 100.000 - of trade unionists, community activists, members of socialist and other progressive groups, and unaligned but angry, scared and frustrated individuals gathered in Portland Place, London, ahead of a mass march to 'Demand Better' for working people. The main themes of the speakers at the concluding rally were job security, pay rises in line with inflation and the cost of living crisis which is seeing workers take the hit for corporate greed and geopolitical events such as the war in Ukraine which are beyond their control.

John Partington (right) and the TSSA contingent

Organised by the Trades Union Congress and supported by all trade unions, the assemblage was impressive in numbers, noisiness and determination. People of all ages, genders, ethnicity and from all parts of the country made the trip to the capital to be heard - marching passed Downing Street and on to Parliament Square where speeches were delivered and comrades fraternised with familiar friends and those they haven't encountered for weeks, months or even years.

Ali McNamara (NEU)

From Reading Trades Union Council, Neil Adams (Unite), James Denny (RMT), John Gilman (Unite), Ali McNamara (NEU), Danny McNamara (Unite Community), John Partington (TSSA), Sue Taylor (PCS) and Tanya Wills (Unite Community) attended, joined by other local trade unionists from the the Green Party, the Labour Party and Reading Socialist Club.

Danny McNamara (Unite Community, foreground)

Unusually, the BBC covered the events on its news broadcast while, in solidarity, the leftwing press gave fulsome coverage.

Tanya Wills (Unite Community)

The Morning Star quoted the RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, who said in his speech: “There is no compromise that has been given to us and the message is clear: we are now in a class struggle.” To the Labour Party leadership, he asked: “Are you going to be with us or are you going to sit on the sidelines while these Tories butcher the working class all over this country? Stand up and fight with us or get out of the way”.

Sue Taylor (PCS)

Chris Nineham in Counterfire noted: "The TUC demonstration was headed up by blocs of thousands from Unison and Unite but there were tremendous contingents of civil servants, teachers, communication workers, firefighters and more". He also noted the universal support for the RMT as 40,000 of their members prepare for three days of strike action in the coming week.

John Partington (middle) with Reading trade unionists from Unite and Unison

The Socialist Worker wrote: "For the first time since 2018, all the major trade unions in Britain brought hundreds - if not thousands - of their members to march in blocs. It was one of the biggest union demonstrations in the last decade and a real boost to activists everywhere. It showed the unions can still be a real force and can mobilise on the streets when they try" and the paper asserted: "Marching must be followed by strikes".

John Partington with Oxford trade union comrades

RTUC was proud to support this mass demonstration by the working class of Britain and will be on the pickets with the RMT in their forthcoming strike action. RMT pickets will be established at Reading Railway Station on 21 and 23 June from 08:00 to 16:00 and at Network Rail's Reading Napier Road Maintenance Depot on 21 June from 17:30 to 22:30. There will also strike action on 25 June. Solidarity support will be welcome.