NSW rail workers strike against the government
NSW rail workers strike against the government
)

It started with an old union song, “Solidarity forever”, blasting away in the Central Station sign-on room. Train drivers and guards started to congregate, wearing blue Rail Tram and Bus Union shirts emblazoned with “union and proud”. When a shift manager walked into the room, the song changed abruptly to “Who Let the Dogs Out” as workers burst out laughing.

These were the moments before an eight-hour strike engulfed the New South Wales rail network. Thousands of train guards, drivers, signallers, crew support officers, track workers, shunters, station staff and cleaners brought the arteries of the NSW public transport system to a grinding halt.

At Central, the biggest depot on the network, the mood was jubilant. One hundred and fifty workers were joined by sympathetic members of the public at the Grand Concourse of Central Station to chant, sing and speak out about our fight against the state government. Similar rallies occurred at every depot across New South Wales.

Workers were clear on what this fight was all about.

“We’re here to send a message to the government, which is trying to force an unsafe train onto our network just so they can get rid of guards from our train services”, Damian, a socialist and the head delegate at Central, said at the rally on Monday night.  “We won’t stand for that. We’re fighting for respect at work, for a decent pay rise and to defend our conditions.”

After almost a year of ignoring the union’s log of claims, NSW Transport has offered a paltry 2.5 percent pay rise, which includes the federally mandated superannuation increase of almost 0.5 percent. In other words, workers are being told to take an “increase” well below inflation—a pay cut as the cost of living in Sydney continues to soar.

“We have these fat cat politicians in Macquarie Street giving themselves pay rises, we have managers on half a million dollars a year saying we should be grateful for a pay cut”, Damian said to cries of “shame!” from the gathered crowd.

Rank-and-file drivers and guards spoke about the need for more action. “We need strikes that really disrupt things, twelve or 24 hours”, one young guard said. Her friend, a new driver, agreed. “Who cares if Fair Work rules against us again? These laws are designed to disarm unions and we have to be prepared to break them” he said, referring to a 2018 decision that outlawed the union’s planned 24-hour strike, citing the damage it would do to the NSW economy.

Back then, the union officials conceded to Fair Work and cancelled the strike. Workers, by a slim majority, begrudgingly voted to accept an offer well below the union’s demands. So far in this campaign, Fair Work hasn’t ruled against any of the union’s actions, but many worry that it is only a matter of time.

At the Central rally, there was a welcome display of solidarity from the public. Sydney University students passed motions in their student union to support the RTBU strike, as did unionised teachers from one school, who sent a representative to speak at the rally.

The eight-hour strike gave railway workers a sense of power and momentum in what has already been a long campaign. It was clear from the energy that workers are prepared to do whatever it takes to win our demands against the arrogant NSW government.

Read more
WA public sector workers fight back
Nick Everett

Western Australian public sector workers will rally at the state parliament on 17 August to demand that wages keep up with the cost of living. The rally, organised by the Public Sector Alliance of nine trade unions, follows several stop-work rallies held at WA hospitals over the last month, involving thousands of health workers.

Labor’s climate bill is a disaster
Jerome Small

The whole country is talking about Labor’s Climate Change Bill. But there’s nothing there.

Britain’s summer of industrial discontent
Britain’s summer of discontent
Ruby Healer

Chants of “Victory to the RMT” echo through Britain’s major cities as 40,000 rail workers continue their resolute campaign for better pay. Their actions have ignited the confidence of a working class facing wide-ranging assaults on living standards. Headline inflation is running at 9.4 percent in the UK, and ordinary workers are being hit hardest. Housing, water and fuel costs have

Five points on the climate crisis
Jerome Small

This article is based on a speech given by Jerome Small, Victorian Socialists Northern Metro candidate in the upcoming state election, at the 30 July United Climate Rally in Melbourne.

NSW public sector workers on strike
Chloe Rafferty

Workers across the country are facing a largely one-sided class war. A combination of bosses raising prices on essential goods, the housing crisis and profiteering on the part of energy companies is leading to a cost-of-living crisis. Conditions are ripe for a fight back: unemployment is at historic lows, and bosses are so desperate for labour they’re trying to entice pensioners back to work.