By a rail worker
THE biggest rail strike for eighty years moved a step closer at the start of May with the unions setting a date for balloting workers across the industry. RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and engineering union CSEU gave notice of the strike ballot after the employers failed to agree the unions' four-point plan to avert a pensions crisis.
Balloting will start on 17 May, with the results expected from the first week of June. If it's a yes, tens of thousands of workers from train drivers to ticket staff, on all the main rail companies including Eurostar, will take part in the first national rail walk-out since the General Strike of 1926.
The announcement of the ballot came as rail workers and our supporters gathered at a union lobby of Parliament to demand that the Government takes responsibility for the pensions crisis. Rail privatisation has left our pension scheme in the same sort of mess as Britain's trains! There are now over 100 separate "sections", wasting vast amounts of money on management costs. Employee contributions for the same level of benefits vary as widely as 5% and 20% of salary, making many of the schemes unsustainable.
Our demands are for management to keep the Railway Pensions scheme open to all workers, cap employee contributions at 10.56%, maintain benefits and streamline the crazy proliferation of sections into a simply, easy to administer scheme. We need a decent, sustainable pension for all railworkers, including new entrants.
If we do not get changes by July 1, large increases in employee-contributions will be triggered automatically, something we are not willing to accept.
Rail workers and the left in the wider trade union movement must prepare for an protracted struggle demanding urgent solidarity.