At the end of June, rail strikes left thousands of commuters unable to travel. Across the country on the 21st, 23rd and 25th of June, 40,000 working members of the RMT union protested against their working conditions through strike action. This left less than one in five trains running across the country. On the 21st, roughly one train ran every hour from Norwich station. Whilst no further dates have yet been confirmed, the nation is likely to face more rail and other travel sector strikes throughout the summer if adequate deals are not struck between operating companies and their workers.
Much of what is being reported focuses on a pay rise issue, but this does not represent the whole picture. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find, that much of the discourse focuses on workers’ rights. Over the past few years, more technology has been created to aid in finding faults on the tracks or to stop them from happening in the first place. However, now that such technology exists, company executives are attempting to cut the workforce, claiming the technology can do the job of the track walkers and maintenance teams, putting their roles at risk. RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch has accused train operators of attempting to simply cut wages rather than reaching a fair settlement, claiming they have done so “Not just against inflation [and] the cost of living — but by actually lowering the salaries, and extending the working week from 35 hours to 40. Anyone can see that is a massive attack on the trade union.”
Other unions, such as the TSSA – which represent those in management and supervision – are considering strike action regarding disputes over conditions, job security and a lack of salary increase. Once again, these strikes have not been confirmed, but ballots to strike were sent out and closed on 11 July.
The strikes will affect many students across the country. Summer jobs will be harder to travel to, travel to festivals will be disrupted, and graduation turnout could be affected. With inflation already at record levels, and the 16-24 year old demographic being one of the most adversely affected socio-economic groups, many of us will likely have to change our summer plans as a result. The legitimacy of these strikes is up to us to judge as individuals, but with numerous other unions and other sectors threatening similar action, many young graduates will undoubtedly have serious questions to ask of their local political and industry representatives about the overall working conditions they face entering in to.