Rail strike: The ability to withdraw your labour remains fundamental - Kenny MacAskill This

The right to strike is fundamental in a democratic society. Working people may have the right to vote but when Scotland hasn’t voted Tory since 1955 and opposed Brexit substantially, it can be viewed as having limited influence. It’s why the ability to withdraw your labour remains fundamental.

There are jobs such as the military where union organisation is precluded and other roles such as the police where industrial action is restricted. But beyond that it remains the right of an individual to say “no not today, Sir, in conjunction with my colleagues I’m staying out”,

The RMT strike next week will be a nuisance to me but I’ll sort my journey out and it won’t be as hard for me compared to others. But my sympathies are still with the strikers. Some of the language from UK Ministers about “marxist unions” is Reaganite and entirely unhelpful.

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Let’s get some of the facts right. Train drivers are largely members of ASLEF not the RMT. Pejorative comments about drivers swanning about on £55,000 a year don’t apply. In any event why begrudge a driver that, given it’s only achieved with considerable overtime. Where’s the outrage over bankers bonuses or Sainsbury’s Chief Executive pocketing £3.8 million?

More importantly, RMT members do a multitude of tasks across the rail network. Some are in very technical roles which will be very well remunerated. But many are not highly paid at all. Most earn between £25-30,000, just a little less than the median salary across the country

They too worked through the pandemic, as I know from chats through masks on railway platforms, although there was neither bonus nor claps as I recall. Now, as many struggle to heat their homes or provide for their families, they want to address the cost of living crisis. Seeking a pay rise that won’t match inflation but might at least mitigate growing hardship seems reasonable.

The Government should cease the abuse and negotiate a fair rate of pay. This strike was supported by 9 to 1 in a ballot of 71% of members. Its necessary as the pay offers are derisory. It’s not the strikers but the management I hold responsible for the strike.

The RMT is set to embark on a series of strikes at the end of the month - and Kenny MacAskill MP believes they are right to do so. PIC: PA Wire.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba MP for East Lothian