Stop These Job Cuts

Submitted by Off The Rails on 23 February, 2009 - 10:04

National Express East Anglia – 242 jobs to go, 61 vacancies frozen, including 3 drivers, 11 cleaners, 44 caterers, 53 retail staff, 19 Stansted Express train crew, 7 workshop engineering staff , 73 call centre staff, 4 revenue-protection staff, 29 support staff

South Eastern Trains – 300 jobs to go

South West Trains – 660+ jobs to go, including platform, information, clerical and cleaning staff Nearly 100 ticket office jobs to go, despite government orders to reduce planned opening times cuts

First ScotRail - 40 jobs to go

First Capital Connect – 22 jobs to go under plans to cut 800 ticket office opening hours a week

EWS/DB Schenker – 530 jobs to go, all grades

Network Rail - 800 jobs at risk due to NR deferring 28% of rail renewals.

London Underground – 1,000 jobs to go in administration grades

Transport for London – an unspecified number of jobs to go, possibly thousands

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As recession bites, job cuts are spreading like wildfire through the rail industry. Can we save these jobs and defend ourselves from the effects of the slump?

If we do not fight the job cuts listed above, we can be sure there will be more to come.
Rail companies are also asking the government to let them cut services. The government should tell them to poke it, especially as the ‘big five’ rail operators have upped fares, profits and dividends!

Our unions have to fight these job cuts. We have the industrial muscle, and are in a stonger position than, say, Woolworths staff, for whom striking seemed pointless as the shops were shutting anyway.

We need to avoid the traps of ‘special pleading’ for our industry, as if job cuts in other industries are not so important; and of nationalism, as though ‘British jobs’ or ‘British workers’ are more important than foreign jobs or foreign workers.

RMT is balloting more than 3,500 members in three of the companies threatening job cuts - National Express East Anglia, South West Trains and First Capital Connect - in simultaneous ballots. These should be followed by simultaneous strikes. The union should also bring threatened workers from other companies into this co-ordinated action, and the other unions should join in.

The TUC seems only to describe the effects of the slump, and to advise unions on how to make redundancies less painful. But we can find inspiring examples of how to defend jobs. Workers at Republic Doors and Windows in the USA occupied their factory and saved their jobs. Workers at Waterford Crystal in Ireland are, as we write, occupying their factory. French workers held a general strike against recession-inspired cuts.

We have also beaten job cuts on the railway. London Underground’s plan to shed 270 ticket office jobs was shelved after an RMT/TSSA campaign and strike ballot.

OPEN THE BOOKS

Companies threatening job cuts should open their books and allow workers and our unions to comb through the finances. We would soon find cash that could be used to prevent job cuts.
Stagecoach, which owns SWT, has taken huge profits out of the industry and recently increased shareholders’ dividends by 33.3%.

First Capital Connect’s revenue grew by 8% in the half-year up to last September; its owner FirstGroup paid out £55m dividends.

South Eastern Trains is part-owned by the Go-Ahead group, which paid nearly £50m in dividends to shareholders last year.

National Express made £17.5m profit from its East Anglia franchise last year. In the first half of 2008, National Express Group’s operating profit rose 25.7% to £113.9m.

Even the CIPD (HR managers’ club) says employers are responding to the slump by making redundancies without looking at alternatives. If sacrifices have to be made, let the shareholders take the hit. All these companies have room to manoeuvre to save workers’ jobs. They will not do so willingly, so should be taken into public ownership and made to use their money this way.

DEFEND PAY & CONDITIONS

Employers always try to increase the rate of exploitation by getting fewer workers to do more work. In times of slump, this drive intensifies. So if we give way on conditions or pay, it will not save jobs. Rather, failing to stand up for decent pay and conditions shows weakness and invites more attacks. If we give an inch they will take us a mile.

In the 1920 slump, the National Union of Railwaymen agreed pay cuts and to drop the guaranteed week, supposedly to save jobs. Within six months, the employers were cutting the jobs too – thousands of them.

It is also a mistake for unions to demand only ‘no compulsory redundancies’, as if job cuts are OK if everyone goes voluntarily. What about those left behind with extra workload? What about rising unemployment?

MOBILISE SUPPORT

Defending jobs means fighting to protect communities and the environment. Several companies are cutting station staff at a time when the government should be encouraging people to use trains not making stations more dangerous places.

Our unions need to involve local people in campaigns to keep ticket offices open and staff on stations. Union campaigning has already pressured the government to curtail SWT’s ticket office closures and passenger watchdog London TravelWatch to object to First Capital Connect’s plans.

This should be part of a high-profile national campaign, as RMT station staff activists have been demanding from their union for years. SOS: Staff Our Stations!

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Workers’ Liberty is publishing a pamphlet about the economic crisis and workers’ response to it. Get a free copy when you subscribe to Off The Rails for 2009!

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